Death, Pestilence, War and Famine walk into a tattoo parlor. A review for Ink & Shadows by Rhys Ford


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.

Ink & Shadows Book Cover Ink & Shadows
Rhys Ford
Urban Fantasy
DSP Publications
July 15, 2015
ARC received from the author

Kismet Andreas lives in fear of the shadows.

For the young tattoo artist, the shadows hold more than darkness. He is certain of his insanity because the dark holds creatures and crawling things only he can see—monsters who hunt out the weak to eat their minds and souls, leaving behind only empty husks and despair.

And if there’s one thing Kismet fears more than being hunted—it’s the madness left in its wake.

The shadowy Veil is Mal’s home. As Pestilence, he is the youngest—and most inexperienced—of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, immortal manifestations resurrected to serve—and cull—mankind. Invisible to all but the dead and insane, the Four exist between the Veil and the mortal world, bound to their nearly eternal fate. Feared by other immortals, the Horsemen live in near solitude but Mal longs to know more than Death, War and Famine.

Mal longs to be… more human. To interact with someone other than lunatics or the deceased.

When Kismet rescues Mal from a shadowy attack, Pestilence is suddenly thrust into a vicious war—where mankind is the prize, and the only one who has faith in Mal is the human the other Horsemen believe is destined to die.

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