Coulthurst, Audrey. Inkmistress. Balzer + Bray, 2018. 400p. ISBN 9780062433282. $17.99. AT ***
Inkmistress takes place in the same universe as the Of Fire and Stars series and happens in a time where the gods still share magic with mortals. Asra lives alone on a mountain and her contact with the outside world is as a healer providing herbal remedies infused with magic to help cure illness. She must keep secret the fact that she is a demigod and a bloodscribe, someone who can change the past or future with her blood. When she uses her gift to prevent her lover Ina from marrying a man, she sets into motion events that lead to the destruction of Ina’s village and forces Ina to use non-standard means to trigger her manifest, an animal that some humans can transform into (in this case a vengeful dragon). Asra’s guilt at having pushed Ina to wreak havoc on the land with the goal of usurping the king leads her on a chase. Along the way she falls in with a demi-god Hal who befriends her and eventually falls in love with her. Can Asra get Ina to see reason? And can she figure out how to once again use her gift to rewrite the past.
This title is powered by strong action that is frequently shut down by clunky world building. The ending is somewhat of a cliff hanger which is odd as there does not seem to be a sequel in the works. The book offers some diversity; Ina and Asra are white bisexuals and Hal is describes as having darker skin. The book is fraught with linguistic inconsistencies including characters using modern day slang such as “Hells no”. Still, it is a vast improvement on her first title Of Fire and Stars. It is fine for most middle school collections and will circulate anywhere Of Fire and Stars is popular.
Carla Avitabile, San Mateo Public Library