Monday, 30 November 2015

'Blood, Ink & Fire', by Ashley Mansour

Title: Blood, Ink & Fire
Author(s): Ashley Mansour
Release Date: 1st December 2015
Publisher: Upturn Publishing
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Source: NetGalley (ARC)

Imagine a world without books…
In the future, books are a distant memory. The written word has been replaced by an ever-present stream of images known as Verity. In the controlling dominion of the United Vales of Fell, reading is obsolete and forbidden, and readers themselves do not—cannot—exist.
But where others see images in the stream, teenager Noelle Hartley sees words. She’s obsessed with what they mean, where they came from, and why they found her.

Noelle’s been keeping her dangerous fixation with words a secret, but on the night before her seventeenth birthday, a rare interruption in the stream leads her to a mysterious volume linked to an underworld of rebel book lovers known as the Nine of the Rising. With the help of the Risers and the beguiling boy Ledger, Noelle discovers that the words within her are precious clues to the books of the earlier time—and as a child of their bookless age, she might be the world’s last hope of bringing them back.

Blood, Ink & Fire is a gripping, evocative tale that asks, who would we be without books?


This book has one of the best premises I have seen in YA this year. A world without books? How would that work? What has happened? How did the world come to such a sad, sad state?

If only it delivered.

My first issue was the writing. I don't think the author writes poorly, on the contrary, but it just doesn't fit the story. The choice of a first person narrator was not, in my opinion, wise. Considering that most of the characters in this world have not had access to books their whole lives, I would assume their communication skills are not as developed as ours are today and that it would be evident in the narration. Reading this story with a writing style that is elaborate and resorts to unusual phrasing choices that a person in that environment would most likely not use became difficult, since it made it harder to connect. You can't feel like you are inside the story because the writing does not make it believable.

The world-building was somewhat lacking. Fair enough, I did not finish the book so I can't talk about how it develops throughout the story, but the foundations laid out in the beginning were not promising. For example, the reason given for the eradication of books was that they gave people the power of imagination. What about children, and illiterate people? I didn't understand this limitation of 'only people who read can imagine things', or why would that be the driving force for a tyrant to ban books.

There was also the problem of plot holes. Usually, I'm really distracted while reading and don't notice things that don't add up; so if I do realize something is wrong, it's usually big. If I am reading an advance copy, I tend to not take that into consideration for reviews and always dismiss them as something that has yet to be edited or worked on.

But if you have a blind character in your book (something I was pretty excited about, because representation and all), and then have a line that says 'but John is still there, studying me like I'm the rarest thing he's ever seen', that is not only poor writing but borderline insulting.

I stopped in my tracks on that sentence, went back to make sure that yes, I hadn't mixed up the characters, and then couldn't bring myself to read anymore. I had already been skimming through it after my earlier issues, holding on to the hope that it would get better, but that was the last straw.

So much potential, but perhaps some more work on the concept, world-building and writing would do it good. As it is, it joins the list of 'the books that could have been'.


  1. It would have made sense if you actually read the book. Would you give up on Tolkien because Frodo is still in the shire by chapter two?
    As far as the writing goes reading the full book clarifies why it reads the way it does.

    1. I don't see why I should force myself to keep reading a book that has several problems for me just for the sake of it. I have done it several times in the past and only in very rare cases does my opinion change in the slightest.

      I appreciate your comment, but this one just wasn't for me.

  2. Hard to take the review seriously when the blogger didn't read very far into the book

    1. This is exactly why I make a point of specifically saying I did not finish a book if I do review it (which I only do if it was sent to me in exchange for a review), since people might not want to base their purchase of a book off reviews that do not scope the whole story, which is perfectly reasonable. I could have just as easily not have said I hadn't finished it, but then I would be misleading people and not writing what to me would be a serious review.

      If it's your opinion that these reviews are not helpful, then you should probably not read them.

  3. I am not sure you read this book, or just skimmed it, as clearly the character you were referring to as being a 'blind character' (John), was killed? His spirit is clearly no longer that of John! Did you read anywhere Ledger!! I would say that is not only poor reviewing but borderline insulting!!

    1. Regardless of anything that happens after that scene, she believes him to be John when she has that thought, so any argument that you might make regarding that doesn't really have legs to stand on I'm afraid.

      Reviews are opinions. If you don't agree with mine, which you are entitled to, that's fine, but no need to get offensive. It seems like you enjoyed the book, but going to negative reviews to try and change people's minds doesn't really seem to me like the way to go.