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Ink & Sigil
From the world of the Iron Druid Chronicles
by Kevin Hearne
Del Rey, $28.00, 308 pp
Published: August 2020

Kevin Hearne will never, ever be described as a one-trick pony.  While he has become a fan-favorite with his Iron Druid series; he has plenty of other stories already published and more in the pipeline, I’m sure.  This story is placed within the same world as the Iron Druid Chronicles, but those characters are not central to this story.  This story is about an almost-normal human Scotsman and his hobgoblin…

Al MacBharrais has a singular magical ability – he can cast ‘spells’ using enchanted ink.  So it’s not the sort of skill that one can pull out and use in the midst of a battle; his skills are more appreciated for their subtlety.  And he is in great demand within the fae world.  But he has two major problems: he is under some unknown curse whereby people who hear his voice for a period of time will conceive a deep and uncontrollable hatred of him, losing him his only family. And the other is that he is unable to keep and train an apprentice; they keep dying in freak accidents.  And it’s while investigating his latest apprentice’s death that Al ends up in Scotland’s magical underworld which will require the assistance of a particular hobgoblin to survive.

His investigation of his apprentice’s home and laboratory uncovers some unsavory evidence of fae trafficking.  And in the age-old storytelling tradition, he acquires both the responsibility for and the loyalty of the hobgoblin, Buck, he rescues.  But keeping Buck alive proves to be particularly wearing as a very powerful someone in the fae community really has it out for him.

This book has all the earmarks of an origin story; the author makes some effort to give some backstory on both Al and his office manager, Nadia.  And the addition of the comic relief in the form of the hobgoblin plus the ongoing mystery of Al’s curse, insures that Hearne has plenty of material with which to continue to work.  I couldn’t say this is epic fantasy, although it is certainly urban fantasy; and I couldn’t say it was a very complex story but it was a very sturdy plot giving Al plenty of room to grow and display his talents.  The only thing keeping me from giving this both thumbs up is the dialogue.  Mr. Hearne really wanted to give us the flavor of Scotland so the dialogue is written with a Scottish accent which, although he kindly gives us a guide, did tend to distract me from the story at times.  But I do thoroughly enjoy the voice of Kevin Hearne so will be back for more…as soon as he has time for Al and Buck. ~~ Catherine Book

For more titles by Kevin Hearne click here

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