First book of 2021 and it was a good one! For some reason, despite going to bed at 1am, I woke up at 3.30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. I thought I’d read to make me sleepy, but this book was so gripping that I couldn’t put it down.
Leora lives in a world with no secrets. Everything about you is inked on your body – your age, your occupation, things you’ve done wrong. Imagine living in a world where everyone can see the misdeeds you’ve committed…
Leora is just finishing school and hasn’t even picked her first voluntary tattoo yet, the ink that she can choose to show who she is. She’s about to start her first job in the real world, but first she needs to pass her exams to find out what career she can go into. She’s always dreamed of being an inker, but that’s not a common role for a woman, perhaps she should be a flayer like her dad. Yes, flaying. I tried not to think too hard about that…
Leora is also blessed with the skill of ‘reading’. By looking at someone’s tattoos, she can see past the ink to the meaning behind it. This seems like it would be completely exhausting, not being able to walk down the street without knowing intimate details about people who walk past you.
When we start the book, Leora’s dad has just died. When you die in Saintstone, your skin is turned into a book (hence the need for flayers…). Since your life is literally written on your skin, that book decides whether you will be remembered, or forgotten. If you’ve done too much bad, your book will be burned and you will be erased from history.
“We’re all a bit bad. We all have things in our lives that bring us shame and regret. Things that have hurt our souls or hurt the people we love. But we’re all a bit good too. I reckon we’re mostly good actually. And life is about trying to learn the balance, plot our place on the continuum.”
Leora knows that her dad was a good person, and his book tells the same story. But all is not as it seems, and she is dragged into a murky situation where things come to light that she could never have imagined.
“Our bodies heal, our bodies repair. Our bodies are built with redemption running through our veins. We don’t consist of the failures and mistakes. We are made new every morning. The past doesn’t have to define you, Leora. Your mistakes don’t have to be for ever. There’s redemption. There’s always redemption.”
A gripping book filled with twists and turns, brimming with emotion and wonderfully imagined. It has a slightly orwellian feel to it, the way that the government wants to use the ink for their own purposes, and how this gives them complete control over their citizens.
I can’t wait to see what happens in book two! I hope we get to learn more about Obel and Oscar, two characters who came into Leora’s life but who still have an air of mystery about them.
Also, I can’t finish the review without mentioning the absolutely stunning cover – how could you not pick up a book that looks like this?!