This story is placed within the same world as the Iron Druid Chronicles, but those characters are not central to this story. This series is about an almost-normal human Scotsman and his hobgoblin…
Al MacBharrais has a singular magical ability - he can cast 'spells' using enchanted ink; he's called a Sigil Agent. So it's not the sort of power that can go head-to-head with real evil-doers; 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. During his investigation into the curse that kills his apprentices, he acquired a hobgoblin who wishes to be known as Buck Foi…as Al made it clear that any other alliteration just wouldn't work in human society.
Al and Buck get drawn to Australia when they become aware that two other experienced Sigil Agents and an apprentice have gone missing. Their investigation becomes more and more dangerous as they appear to be up against an unknowable evil entity. It's a big puzzle for Al as Sigil Agents don't usually get attention from big unspeakable evil entities. So Al asks for the assistance of a Druid since Atticus, now known as Connor, happens to be on the continent investigating other extraplanar activities affecting local forest fires. But Connor isn't the strangest and might not even be the most powerful creature come to aid Al. Besides Buck, Al's office manager, Nadia, and even his receptionist, Gladys Who Has Seen Some Shite, come to his aid. And to Al's surprise, neither woman is as ordinary as he had believed; fortunately.
The story pretty much involves a trek into Australia's boondocks in search of the missing Sigil Agents. Each of the characters has an opportunity to contribute their own particular expertise to the rescue but it does seem improbable that they have enough firepower to disable this particular baddy. The Ink & Sigil stories are a bit tamer than the Iron Druid stories so it's no real surprise that the evil baddy was after a bigger fish than Sigil Agents who are there as bait. But they are a similar pattern down to Al's 'good hob' Buck who loves salsa as much as Connor's 'good dugs' love sausage. Al, not being an ancient druid or a demi-god, does have to rely on others with real powers to do the heavy lifting which concerns this reader as to the viability of this series. I do love the Iron Druid universe but the Ink & Sigil stories are Iron Druid-Lite. Hearne is still teasing us with the mystery of who and why someone cursed Al which, I expect, will take at least one, if not two, stories to resolve - which I will stick around for. ~~ Catherine Book
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