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All booksYoung adultInk in the Blood
Ink in the Blood by Kim Smejkal
Young adult

Ink in the Blood

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Kim Smejkal, on your first book!

by Kim Smejkal

Quick take

A dark fantasy dripping with magic, divine tattoo art, and powerful gods. If you like Leigh Bardugo, you'll like this.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LGBTQ

    LGBTQ+ themes

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Series

    First in series

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Magical


Why I love it

Lily Philpott

Kim Smejkal’s Ink in the Blood is the fantasy epic I didn’t know I needed. It draws together so many of my interests: tattoos, magic, masquerades, revolution, well-written characters across the gender spectrum, and immerses you fully in its spell over several hundred pages.

When Celia Sand is six years old, a tattoo etches itself on her ankle in the middle of the night, consigning her to a mysterious religion called Profeta. Alongside her best friend Anya, Celia wields tattoo magic that nudges followers' fates at the whim of the Divine. Sound like a dream job? It’s not. So when Celia and Anya are given the chance to escape their cruel fates and join the Rabble Mob (a bold and irrepressible theater troupe and lovable found family) they take it… and find themselves at the center of a brewing revolution that promises to shake the very foundations of the faith they ran away from.

This is dark fantasy at its most irresistible, and I loved exploring the all-encompassing world Kim Smejkal has created. Each aspect is so unique and intricately rendered, sweeping you into the embrace of unforgettable characters and dangerous schemes. For readers who like their fantasy bloody, complex, and utterly enthralling, I can't recommend Ink in the Blood highly enough!

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Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.

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Check out a preview of Ink in the Blood.

Member thoughts

All (366)
All (366)
Love (131)
Like (158)
Dislike (77)
387 ratings
  • 34% Love
  • 41% Like
  • 20% Dislike
  • Pembroke, NH

    The concept was intriguing and then the story kept unfolding, sucking me in deeper. The world building is fantastic and the main character makes you root for her, even when sometimes you don’t want to

  • Yale, VA

    Original, captivating, and breathtaking! The deep emotion this thought-provoking book made me feel ranks it one of my favorite books. Couldn’t put it down, and hate that I have to wait for the second!

  • Glendale Hts, IL

    Beautifully conceptualized and elegantly executed. I enjoyed the story and felt deeply for the characters. I genuinely rooted for them. The second half was non-stop for me and I couldn't put it down.

  • Helena, MT

    A dark, divergent fantasy about a merciless religion, tattoo magic, performance art, & the value of freedom in a wholly unique world, featuring LGBTQ+ rep & a wicked plot! I LOVED this gem of a book!


    My favorite BOTM book yet! I was honestly a little put off by how political it seemed in the beginning, and almost gave up on it, but was SO happy when I got into the artistic heart of the story!

  • Arvada, CO

    Slow start but then I couldn’t put it down. I felt unsetted when I finished and keep thinking about the characters and their choices. Interesting concept and exploration of tough themes.

  • Texas City, TX

    Slow start, but the pay off is worth it once you get to the circus. Dark and gritty and one of the best slow burn romances I’ve read in YA. Recommend to fans of Six of Crows and Caraval

  • New Castle, DE

    Such an interesting book - I really enjoyed it, though perhaps I would have enjoyed it more without a trigger (which I won't spoil here). A whole new world excellently crafted.

  • Rocky Hill , CT

    This book was great. (I consider all books that make me cry great!) After getting through the magic system and the unique writing style, I grew to love this book.

  • Mossyrock, WA

    I loved this book. I was instantly hooked and attached to the characters. The ending is not what I expected at all. It broke my heart and made me happy.

  • Fort Worth, TX

    This book enthralled me from the beginning, the world, the characters, the concept! This is the definition of dark fantasy and does it so well.

  • Lansing, MI

    Once they got to the circus parts, I was HOOKED. Loved the imagery, the characters, everything. The romance dynamic was on point.

  • Paducah, KY

    I have never loved so many characters as i have from this book. Each one so damn beautiful and creative. The Plague Doctor, OMG

  • Thomasville , GA

    Great debut. It isnt my normal genre but i liked the representation and the fantastical elements. Recommend.

  • Stockton , CA

    I think this was food. Can’t wait for the next one. The middle lagged a bit, but I loved the characters.

  • Marshfield , MA

    Intense ans lovely, love the concept ot tattoos ans magic! Cannot wait to see more from this author

  • Raleigh, NC

    This book was so unique and not at all what I expected. I was so sad when I finished it.

  • Aitkin, MN

    Lost a few days in reading this one. Could not put it down, sucked right in!

  • Rutland, MA

    This one was a little slow to start but I really enjoyed the last half.

  • Hudson , FL

    Amazing book! Can't wait to read the second book in this series!

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