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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

Excellent choice

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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



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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Free sample

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Ink in the Blood


The tattoo appeared around Celia’s ankle in the night. The magic woke her, the pain alarmed her, her mothers comforted her.

The thin black line summoned her to serve the Divine. It meant Celia was special.

So Celia asked for a chocolate. She figured the worst her mothers could say was no (like always), but if they were ever going to say yes, it would be when they were so proud of her they couldn’t stop crying.

But first they asked her to tell them the Divine’s story. Celia was already six years old and knew the story well enough. Standing in front of the hearth so the snaps and crackles of the fire would add to the performance, she cleared her throat and began.

A thousand years ago, a child found a magic box with some magic ink. With that special ink, the child tattooed people without touching them: when she drew a temporary line on her own skin, it became a permanent line on someone else’s. Didn’t matter how far away they were, either.

It was as if the child could talk directly to the angels. Her tattoos were mystical, and her messages were . . . pure. She wanted to help people make good choices.

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Why I love it

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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Member ratings (502)

  • Patricia M.

    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

  • Morgan W.

    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!

  • Callie J.

    Maryville, TN

    This was a read that immediately grabbed my attention. I was hooked from the first page! The only thing I could think of that I wasn’t a fan of was the lack of explanation for the religion and tenor.

  • Shelsea D.

    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!

  • Will C.

    Lombard, 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.

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