Dystopian · lgbtqia content · sci-fi / fantasy

REVIEW: Earnest Ink by Alex Hall

The Official Description: While twenty-year-old FTM Hemingway is making an excellent living as a tattoo artist in a near-future version of Hell’s Kitchen, the rest of the country is splintered and struggling in the wake of a war gone on for too long. Technology has collapsed, borders rise and fall overnight, and magic has awakened without rhyme, reason, or rule, turning average unwitting citizens into wielders of strange and specific strands of magic.

Hemingway’s particular brand of magic has made him a household name. Not only is he a talented artist, but his work comes to life. Literally.

When NYC’s most infamous serial killer—the East River Ripper—abducts Hemingway’s best friend, Grace, he has only days to save her. Hemingway teams up with his stoic cop roommate to hunt for the killer and rescue Grace before she becomes the Ripper’s latest victim. But as the duo chase clues to the serial killer’s identity, Hemingway begins to fear the magic he and the Ripper share might eventually corrupt him too.

Just the facts: Dystopian future. Magical powers! Diverse characters. Mystery

Hemingway is a magical tattoo-artist. His fame brings him unwanted attention from rebels and a dangerous serial killer.- Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit:  This book was great! This is a pretty dark world. NYC appears to be walled off and things aren’t what they once were. There are Closed Circuit cameras everywhere, there’s a curfew and enforcement officers are posted on every corner. In Hall’s world, there are people who have magical skills. Some of them can heal people, some can manipulate energy, Hemingway can bring his tattoo art to life… and the East River Ripper appears to be able to magically drain the life out of his/her victims. Sometimes, people’s magics can be combined.

Hemingway is an interesting character. He’s lived a life that hasn’t been free of trauma. In fact, Hemingway’s face became a household image when he was photographed trying to save a little girl’s life after a bombing. He was injured himself during the event and bears physical and emotional scars. Shortly after his magic came to him, Hemingway began to realize that he would never be seen the same way again.

I loved the idea of Hemingway’s magical tattoos. When Hemingway creates a finishes a tatoo it comes to life. The ink becomes a real image and flutters and lives just off the canvas’ body. He’s comfortable with his ability and has built a comfortable life for himself. He owns the building in which “Earnest Ink” resides and lives there as well.

Thom is Hemingway’s roommate. Thom is a great character. She works in enforcement and has dedicated her life to finding the East River Ripper because he murdered her brother. Her grief is all-consuming but she fits into Hemingway’s life well. As an aside… she is asexual. And let me say, I like that there’s diversity in this story without it being the “basis” of the plot. This story just has great diverse characters … the end! Flighty and personable, Grace is Hemingway’s ex-girlfriend and drags him out to the places he tries to avoid. She is the reason he has a social life. Eric is the steadfast retired military man who protects Hemingway from his fans and helps him to run Earnest INk.

When Hemingway’s best friend, Grace goes missing it quickly becomes clear that she’s been taken by the ripper. Thom and Hemingway team up to try and find her as time runs out. They end up tangling with an underground band of magical-wielding rebels… and it becomes much less clear who they should trust. I’m not going to ruin the plot for you. There are some great reveals!

Overall this is a really enjoyable mystery/suspense novel with a great cast of diverse characters!

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) Depictions of Trauma, Blood, Violence, Murder, Eating disorders, Body hatred, Transphobia, PTSD, War, descriptions of the process of tattooing, description of desiccated bodies, confinement

Readalikes: Other stories that are similar or give the same feel.

Links: Goodreads // The Author // The Publisher

I received an ARC of Earnest Inkby Alex Hall from NineStar press via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

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