Magical Inks

Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne

Publication Date: August 25, 2020

Summary from NetGalley:

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails—and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective—while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.

Arc provided by Random House Publishing via Netgalley for an honest review


I thoroughly enjoyed this new series set in the Iron Druid world. If you have not yet read the Iron Druid books, don’t despair, you can easily read this book and understand the world quite well. I highly recommend though that you read the Author’s Note at the beginning that explains how to read the Scottish dialect. Otherwise some things, like the fact that they have an aversion to the word not, might make reading the dialogue rather difficult.

Al MacBharrais is one of the most interesting main characters that I have read in awhile. He is old, in his sixties, but does okay. He is witty and likes to tell stories and enjoys a good whiskey or gin. He is also cursed, he can not talk to anyone without them coming to hate him after a short while. This means he has to use a text to speech app on his phone. Unfortunately this made him estranged from his family, which makes him a lonely guy.

Even with his curse, Al is able to surround himself with a small group of allies/friends that know what he does and helps him when he needs it. Nadia is his muscle when he needs it and is a very strong female character with a lot going for her. Buck is a hobgoblin that Al befriends at the start of the book and he quickly becomes a great sidekick who often lends a bit of humor to dark situations. Saxon is his computer guy who can pretty much find any information Al needs. Saxon was also quite amusing and I hope to see more of him in the series.

So the magical system was very interesting and it is what sets this story apart. Al is a sigil agent, which is something that Brighid, First among the Fae, came up with to make up for the lack of Druids. They are basically lawyers/police force that keep the Fae and the humans apart. But they also use sigils drawn with magical ink to perform magic. These sigils can give someone limited strength and magical sight and lots of other things. We didn’t get a whole lot of explanation of the magical inks, but what we did get was fascinating. Some of the ingredients for making the ink was quite interesting too. I never really thought about how ink is made, but this book has made me more interested in finding out more.

The story itself is a little bit mystery, a little bit thriller with some government conspiracy thrown in for good measure. It is fast paced and will keep you on your toes as to what will happen next. I don’t want to give away too much, but I liked how the author paralleled what was happening in the magical world to things happening in the real world. And Atticus and Oberon even make a cameo appearance which I was very excited about.

I am very excited for this new series and am looking forward to the next book.

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