(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction – Dystopian
Title: Blood, Ink & Fire
Author: Ashley Mansour
Length: 408 pages
Publication: December 1st 2015 by Upturn Publishing
Note: The publisher sent me this e-book via Netgalley for free in exchange for my honest review.
Imagine a world without books…
In the future, books are a distant memory. The written word has been replaced by an ever-present stream of images known as Verity. In the controlling dominion of the United Vales of Fell, reading is obsolete and forbidden, and readers themselves do not—cannot—exist.
But where others see images in the stream, teenager Noelle Hartley sees words. She’s obsessed with what they mean, where they came from, and why they found her.
Noelle’s been keeping her dangerous fixation with words a secret, but on the night before her seventeenth birthday, a rare interruption in the stream leads her to a mysterious volume linked to an underworld of rebel book lovers known as the Nine of the Rising. With the help of the Risers and the beguiling boy Ledger, Noelle discovers that the words within her are precious clues to the books of the earlier time—and as a child of their bookless age, she might be the world’s last hope of bringing them back.
Blood, Ink & Fire is a gripping, evocative tale that asks, who would we be without books?
‘Blood, Ink & Fire’ is written in first person present with limited point of view. Even as the main character is Noelle Hartley, a seventeen-year-old narrates her story, a few odd chapters are thrown in from other characters’ points of view. These chapters are designed to give insight into the story, but end up as distracting interruptions.
Pacing: The pacing was disjointed. The first third of the book drags out as nonsensical ‘clues’ are offered in regards to the world, the backstory, and the present events. This could have worked had every character expect for the MC not been blatantly withholding information. Not only that, but no actual justification was given for withholding the information and the MC is either oblivious to the secrets or possesses a lack of determination to figure it all out. The second third picks up the pace and the third blazes through in a careless mad dash for the end.
World: The world felt like a mash-up of previously designed worlds. It took the structured lifestyle from ‘The Giver’, the banning of books and reading from ‘Fahrenheit 451’, a desolate outside world from ‘The Maze Runner’, a mind-destroying surgery from ‘Uglies’, and distinct oppressed cities outside the hive-mind from ‘The Hunger Games’. Even with these elements, the world utilizes them poorly, resulting in a dull, drab, and unimaginative universe.
Writing: The writing style was bland. The first third of the book is written as an info-dump. The MC was improperly educated so Fell can keep her as mindless as everyone else and, as a result, the other characters spend quite a few chapters explaining everything to her. Additionally, much of the scenery was sketched over, making it difficult to imagine the world. This lack of detail became problematic in many of the high intensity scenes which were written in a convoluted manner that left the reader lost on how characters got from point A to point B.
Non-Spoilered Plot: Without any instruction, Noelle Hartley can read, and she’s the only person who can because unlike everyone else, she was born with this ability. And that makes her a threat. In a society where thinking for oneself, being imaginative, open-minded, and free of thought has been banished, reading is a danger to the controlled order. Any possibility in the disruption of this order must be destroyed, which is why the government is hunting her. They can’t allow her to read, or worse, inspire others to think for themselves.
Character: Noelle Hartley’s personality never remains one thing throughout the book as if the main character is a mash-up of multiple personalities. In the world outside Fell, she’s naive. Everything needs to explained to her and yet later on she seems to understand everything, right down to terminology for sailing and high-tech vehicle modifications, which she’s never been told about nor learned about in Fell. Not only is she the only person who can read, but she obtains knowledge from thin air. Even so, it takes her forever to understand what’s going on. Thus, Noelle comes off as daft, unintelligent, and incapable.
Plot: This main plot would’ve been classified as a quest until the very end when it reveals itself as a voyage and return plot because Noelle goes on this extravagant journey only to end up right back where she started and nothing’s changed. For this novel, this didn’t work. No change left the ending underwhelming and unsatisfying, but the concept of the book didn’t help in this regard either.
The concept of this novel is that people no longer have the ability to read. The ability was removed from the brain’s of people living within Fell via light and the people of the Sovereigns have no material by which to learn to read even as their brains still possess the ability. Yet, Noelle is born with the ability to not only read, but decipher the meaning of words, as well.
Unfortunately, the flaw with the Sovereigns not being able to read is that at least 8/9 Sovereigns was governed by one of the Nine of the Rising. Each member of the Nine of the Rising can read. Still, no one thought to pass down the ability to read to the next generations with the book volumes they were keeping hidden away. For example, France is in charge of Pedanta. France’s grandfather was Holofernes, one of the Nine of the Rising. He had his volume stowed away within Pedanta, giving him the perfect opportunity to teach his grandchildren to read… but he didn’t. Not only did he not teach her to read, he never told her his reasoning for building his cyber army. Instead, he leaves her to her own thoughts to come up with some convoluted idea of what the army’s true purpose is, which she believes is simply taking over Verity’s stream and controlling it themselves. (aka nothing changes.)
This wasn’t the only plot flaw, however. Later, when the group is in Killem, Lady M stabs herself with the Never Blade and dies almost instantly. Yet, William is nicked with the same blade and gets 48 hours to live. How? Does the blade lose potency because it already stabbed someone? It’s never clearly defined how the blade works. Is it dipped in poison? Is the blade actually poisonous? It sounds like a one-use sort of weapon, at least when it comes to the poison, given the way Scythe had to dip the blade in Lady M’s poisoned blood to poison William. So, it lost potency because it was diluted in her blood? That’s why it took so long to kill William? Many other aspects of the world weren’t clearly defined either: where’d they get all the gas to power the RV?
Though, the most unfortunate part of the novel was the love plot. Not because it was a love plot. Rather because the love plot was rushed and felt too much like insta-love. Yes, Noelle was in love with John before Ledger took over his body, but following that path, then Noelle was in love with John for his looks and not his personality. In the meantime, Ledger has no idea what love is like. Who’s to say he’s even capable of love at all or knows what it truly is? Not only that, but the only female he spends any amount of time with is Noelle, which makes his love come off as forced because he’s not even given another option. And then there’s the whole scene between Noelle and Mac in Killem, which was unnecessary outside of making Ledger jealous for no apparent reason.
Lack of reasoning for events and character interactions seemed a common theme in this book. Mixed this with a plot being dragged out by ominous, convoluted secrets, and the story ends up confusing and unenticing. With that being said, I leave my review of this book, ‘Blood, Ink & Fire’ at one star.