Sunday, June 14, 2020

Spring Reading 2020 Ink & Sigil


If you've ever read any of the Iron Druid books, then you already know the world where Kevin Hearne has set this spinoff series. But while Atticus O'Sullivan is a druid with powers that most humans can't imagine and seemingly eternal youth, Al MacBharrais is a widower who is feeling his years and has to rely on carefully crafted sigils to use a bit of magic. Since each sigil requires a specific ink with very rare ingredients and time to draw it out correctly, it is not a type of magic to use without lots of advance preparation. Too bad villains never seem to give anyone time for that prep. As for the years, Al chooses "to interpret the symphony of pops and crackles in my joints as a mark of extraordinary character." The idea of travel between the planes that was part of the Iron Druid books is the same here, but Al adds his own additional twist. "I look at the Internet as a sort of plane in the sense that it has plenty of rules and one shouldn't be mucking about there without some expertise." Sounds about right to me.

When Al finds his latest apprentice dead, he also discovers a hobgoblin that shouldn't be there. Buck (the hob), learns that Gordie the apprentice is dead and asks how it happened.  Al tells him  that Gordie choked to death on a raisin scone. Buck declares it was a suicide because, "He didn't accidentally eat a raisin scone, now did he?" The two eventually come to an agreement that raisins in a scone are evil and dangerous, then they begin unraveling the situation that brought Buck to Scotland in the first place. The others in Al's life who know about his true duties as a sigil agent in policing traffic between the various planes of existence are just as unique as Buck. For instance, there is his business manager who is also a battle seer. Or the faery who tends bar at the local pub, who also sends messages to the court of Brighid, First among the Fae. And there are the other sigil agents who are stationed around the world.

The first time I read it, I went through it in one big gulp. Then I had to go back and slow down to savor all the elements that made it such a good read. There are so many things to like about this book, and to look forward to later on in the series, and not just the urban fantasy setting and the action sequences. Al's character is entertaining, but he also has a curse hanging over his head that will need to be dealt with. Buck, the hobgoblin, is good for pointing out human foibles and questioning things that we take for granted. (If you enjoyed the conversations between Oberon and Atticus, then Al and Buck will also amuse you in the same way.) When I was reading the book, I occasionally had to put it down because I was laughing too hard to see the words. Nadia is a contradiction with her diminutive size and her battle skills. Let's not even start on the librarian that Al wants to take out for coffee, or the detective who is suspicious of his activities, or his need for a new apprentice (one who won't eat raisin scones)... And I would love to visit more with the other sigil agents, especially the one in Chattanooga (since that is close to my home). I appreciate Hearne's brilliance in noticing that "the Fae preferred the Appalachians and Smoky Mountains above all else in the western hemisphere." Who doesn't?

Highly recommended for fans of Kevin Hearne, urban fantasy (especially with Druidic or Celtic ties), mysteries with magical elements, or anyone who likes their fantasy to have a mix of action, humor, and whodunit.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

No comments:

Post a Comment