• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of Paper & Blood (Ink & Sigil #2) by Kevin Hearne

I enjoyed revisiting characters from Ink & Sigil, but I felt bogged down by recounted stories and detailed logistics, and I missed the playfulness of book one.

In Kevin Hearne's latest book, the second and final installment in his Ink & Sigil duology, we catch up with the gloriously Scottish, unfailingly calm, crankily aging sigil agent and widower Al MacBharrais and the loyal, lazy, creative, bright pink, mischievous hobgoblin by his side, Buck Foi ("Aye, that's what yer maw said"), for adventure and more of their somewhat grumpy attempts to save the world.

Paper & Blood is a quirky, lighthearted fantasy featuring copious Scottish lingo, magical creatures in the wondrous wilds of Australia, and steadfast partners like Nadia (an accountant who moonlights as a pit fighter and is "a sleek goth avatar of pain"), as well as potentially ill-advised companions like the ancient Iron Druid Atticus O'Sullivan and his sentient "dugs" (dogs).

Paper & Blood offers entertaining and frequent pop culture references, but it sometimes felt willfully absurd.

The story lagged a little for me with the accounts of past battles and war stories; extensive details of the logistics of magical processes and of defusing traps; and page time spent planning responses to current-day conflicts.

I missed the character growth from book one, and I found myself wanting a little more of the flashy, witty, surprising banter between Nadia, Al, and Buck--and wanting more Nadia in general. Minor note: thank goodness Saxon Codpiece returned for book two!

I did love Al's introspection; for example:

Grief is never easy. But it gets softer around the edges, smoothed over like a river rock given time enough and water. It's still a rock and it's heavy and dangerous and capable of hurting you. Just not immediately to the touch, if that makes sense.

And:

Still, we must recognize that we have zero power to sustain our highs, which means we should take delight in them when they occur but remember that we have much power to lift ourselves out of the abyss. Sometimes that power is simply having faith that the trend line of our lives will climb higher once again.

But, frustratingly, a major plot point wasn't resolved (ahem, the curse!), although Al developed a peaceful attitude about the ongoing mystery.

I received an advance digital copy of this book courtesy of Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Last year I really enjoyed Hearne's first book in this duology, Ink & Sigil, so much so that it made it onto the Greedy Reading List Three Offbeat Series I Just Started and Love.

The playful tone of this series often reminded me of The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee, which was a five-star read for me.