When Rhys Ford goes to the Dark Side, she goes all out. Ink & Shadows is like nothing I’ve ever read before by this author and it was both exiting and it made me a little worried for the author’s sanity.
Going into this book, you have to remember, it’s all urban fantasy. It’s not about the romance. If you think there will be some hurt/comfort relationship with a hero to make all the pain go away for the sad little puppy he picked up, you’ll be sadly mistaken.
Instead we get Kismet. A protagonist so flawed, there is a picture of him beside the word in the dictionary. He’s addicted with no plans to stop. He also sees madness in the shadows, or rather the veil. He’s one of the lucky or cursed ones who sees beyond. Then there are the dead that haunt him. One in particular. In theory he shouldn’t be very likable, but the reader can’t help but have a soft spot for Kismet.
This first book is very much a set-up for a series. There is a lot of setting, history, world-building and character set-up. It feels very much like it’s the beginning, because at the end of the story, you feel like it just got started and you’re left wondering about a lot of things.
But what a wonderful set-up it is. The author has a created an imaginative and very scary world with Kismet, and the four horsemen right at the centre of it. It’s a mad world that is constantly shifting. It’s also very dark, as you can guess. I liked that. Nothing is clear-cut or given. The reader is constantly wondering what is going on and where the story is going.
What was a little hard was the constantly shifting perspective. It’s not something that I generally dislike as it keeps a story interesting and gives a reader the story from all angles. In Ink & Shadows I thought the story would be about Kismet, but there is more in there about Death (Shi) and War (Ari) in between than Kismet or Mal (Pestilence).
Death and War are both very interesting characters that carry their own story in Ink & Shadows, but in the greater picture it did feel a little unbalanced and doesn’t quite fit with the burb of the book.
Like all of this author’s books, the writing was superb. It’s flowing, detailed, vivid and strong. The author has a very articulate and eloquent style of writing that paints a good – and in this case scary – picture of the world Kismet and the Horsemen live in.
All the characters in this book are very imperfect, even the geeky Mal who paints the weirdest picture of a horsemen in history. Introverted Shi (Death) is the most mysterious of all. With Ari (War) it’s all laid out here. He just likes a good brawl…and Death. Even with Famine, a kick-ass female character, it’s clear what she is about. Along with Kismet they make a quaint bunch.
All in all a good start of a series. I sure hope there will be more!
Why you should read it: don’t read it if you want a romance. Read it if you are looking for a dark urban fantasy – without the rape subplots that usually feature dark urban fantasy stories – with a fascinating plot revolving around the Four Horsemen and maybe an apocalypse or two.