Curse of the Divine, Kim Smejkal – Book Review

Hello Humans! One thing I love about reading the first book in a new series is that promise of sequels, of more to come. It can be a long wait in some cases but it is almost always satisfying to see what happens next for characters, in some case for an entire world. Last year I read and reviewed Ink in the Blood having picked up an ARC at YALC (remember YALC?). I loved the tattoo magic and I was interested to see where this story could go after the events of book one – so let me tell you…

Goodreads Summary:

Return to the world of inklings, tattoo magic, and evil deities as Celia uncovers the secrets of the ink in order to stop Diavala once and for all. This eagerly anticipated sequel to Ink in the Blood is perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Wicked Saints.

Celia Sand faced Diavala and won, using ink magic to destroy the corrupt religion of Profeta that tormented her for a decade. But winning came with a cost. Now Celia is plagued with guilt over her role in the death of her best friend. When she discovers that Diavala is still very much alive and threatening Griffin, the now-infamous plague doctor, Celia is desperate not to lose another person she loves to the deity’s wrath.

The key to destroying Diavala may lie with Halycon Ronnea, the only other person to have faced Diavala and survived. But Halcyon is dangerous and has secrets of his own, ones that involve the ink that Celia has come to hate. Forced to choose between the ink and Diavala, Celia will do whatever it takes to save Griffin—even if it means making a deal with the devil himself.

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Overall I had a pretty good time with this book, I’ll say that from the off. I found it to be an entertaining sequel. For context I opted to read this without re-reading Ink in the Blood mostly because I could remember some pretty world changing things happening at the end of the first book and I was expecting the book to remind me of them fairly early on. I do think you can read this without a reread of the first book but my gut says you’ll get a better sense of Celia’s character development if you read them both in quick succession – simply because that’s how duologies usually pan out.

Those hoping for more magic specifically around tattooing might be disappointed in reading this book (although again the events of book one might have tipped you off to that) but that’s not to say this book doesn’t have magic – because it does. I very rarely find a book that totally shakes up it’s own magic system in book two and I was slightly concerned it wasn’t going to work. In this case I think that because there is a clear connection to the magic of Ink in the Blood and also because we see Celia learning more about this magic it doesn’t feel totally jarring or separate from book one.

I was sad to not get much continuation of the side characters from the first book – in fact you only get Celia and Griffin – that’s not to say I don’t like both of them as characters it’s just not my favourite thing when a sequel ditches most of the things that were set up in the previous book. I do think that the setting and the set-up for this book is eerie and atmospheric in a great way it just would have been nice to see some of the performance aspect of the previous book come into play in this story as well. Those who were invested in the romance of this series will likely not be dissapointed.

I had forgotten the way this book tackles gender identity, with a visible signifier that most people have that helps one to determine which pronouns you ought to use. It’s an interesting take and I thought it was a cool way of including multiple gender identities within a story that wasn’t really about that. I mean it’s a fantasy world after all why not make it simpler than it is here in reality? I’m not running around the streets cheering this as an amazing bit of LGBTQ+ fiction but it felt well handled and quietly supportive which is sometimes all I want.

Overall my impression was that this will be a good read for those who adored the first book, and I think I would say it is a series worth reading if it has captured your attention. Alas I am still waiting for a fantasy book about tattooing that stays about tattooing throughout… one day.

My rating: 3/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.

Curse of the Divine is out February 9th

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