Review of Ink by Alice Broadway (01/11/19)
Winner of Leeds Book Awards
I have just read Ink, by Alice Broadway, winner of the Leeds Book Awards. It has an unlikely premise. The heroine, Leora, lives in a society where everyone is ‘inked’ or tattooed almost from birth and thereafter throughout their lives with details of events as they occur – naming, school, engagements, exams marriage and so on. At their deaths, and this is the really gruesome bit, they are carefully flayed and the skin treated and turned into a book which is returned to the relations after an acceptance ceremony. People who commit serious crimes are punished by being classed as The Forgotten, in essence Blanks, and at their death their book is burned.
The people have been raised to fear the Blanks who are exiled to an area outside the main city of Saintstone, Leora’s home, and who reputedly live in dirt and disgrace. They are suspected of somehow infiltrating and spying upon the residents of Saintstone and are generally considered to be the source of dissension and harm. Blanks, according to the society’s myths and legends as well as general hearsay, are the source of all evil.
The tale is cleverly told, events unfolding often unexpectedly as Leora studies to become an Inker, and on the death of her father begins to realise that her life is not all that it has seemed. When she sees a thief publicly shamed and tattooed with the symbol of the crow which she has seen on her father, and then her father’s acceptance ceremony is delayed, her world begins to crumble.
The original premise clearly has its origins in the Holocaust and there is even a charismatic Mayor of Saintstone, Longsight, whose impassioned speeches whip up hatred of the Blanks.
The ending, although satisfying in itself, seems to be setting up the scene for further books in the same series which I await with great interest.