Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Angel's Ink, by Jocelynn Drake - Review

Image copied from www.jocelynndrake.com
Title: Angel's Ink
Author: Jocelynn Drake
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Series Name: Asylum Tales (Book 1)
Reviewing: Commercial Kindle Edition  
Reason for reading: I was offered a review copy for the second book in the series, and since I had time, I wanted to start at the beginning. 

The Short Answer
If you love "kitchen sink" urban fantasy, with a wide variety of paranormal races, tight world-building, and an intriguing fresh premise, you should definitely check this one out.

All of Drake's "Dark Days" ebooks are currently on sale at most retail outlets for 99 cents.  This has been going on for a couple weeks now, so it may not last much longer.  (Sadly, Angel's Ink is NOT 99 cents). 

The Premise
In the tradition of Kim Harrison's Hollows, and Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, we have a world where the paranormals are "out" and live alongside the mortals.  It's a bit unclear how long the world has been this way; perhaps forever.

There is a distinct hierarchy among the paranormal races, and the Wizards and Witches are at the tippy top.  Unfortunately they apparently never had the wise guidance of Spiderman's Uncle Ben*, and their great powers are used in a world-wide tyrannical rule.  Everyone is afraid of them, and within their own ranks, no one seems to like anyone else very much either. Confession: I just finished reading the entire Harry Potter series quite recently, and I have to say, this might be how the world would look had Harry not defeated Voldemort.  Seriously.

Our hero, Gage, has taken the unprecedented step of leaving the society of the Wizards. His life is sort of like a dangerous criminal who's been paroled -- the conditions of his release include a not-so-benevolent parole officer/watchdog who regularly appears to beat the crap out of Gage whenever he lets slip with a little magic.

The new twist in this series, to me anyway, is that one of the "legal" ways Gage can use magic is by way of his tattoos.  Adding potion ingredients (Snape, anyone?) to his basic tattoo inks, he can predispose his clients to good luck, to protection, and other various charms. 

I really love this -- it combines a number of classic paranormal tropes -- potions, exotic ingredients, and visual designs -- all to invoke the magical.  Then add in the modern obsession with tattoos, and voila! Very appealing.

Series Handicap
Since this is the first book, there's no "handicap" to apply.  I would say that like any series, you will get more out of them if you read in order, but in general the series arc is not overpowering in this book.  The second book (due out May 7) does more to set up future arcs.  Angel's Ink has a distinct, complete story arc with a satisfying resolution, so if you don't necessarily want to commit to a series, I think you will still be happy with this one.  There's an implication of a future price to pay, which opens up some questions for later books, but I didn't find it to be one of those agonizing cliff hangers.

I had a little trouble in the first third or so of the story with Gage's voice.  Maybe it's just because so many urban fantasy series are headed by red-haired, kitana-wielding, kick-ass outsider twenty-something women, that I wasn't ready for a wand-wielding kick-ass outsider twenty (thirty?) - something man.  It's not something that's easy to pin down, but some of his observation and internal narration just didn't sound like a guy to me.  Which I freely admit, could just be my own prejudice.  He comes off as a bit more vulnerable than the typical alpha hero.  He processes a lot.

Whether I just got used to it, or if was more of an early pacing issue, eventually the story picked up for me and I was fine with it by the middle of the book.

There are some fun secondary characters here that may or may not become more important.  They add a lot of color to the world but for the most part remain firmly in the secondary role, and do not threaten the focus of the story.  It is also useful to bear in mind with this series that not everyone is as they appear. 

The romantic element of the story didn't work quite as well for me, but it will develop over several books as is the way of UF, and I'm willing to see where it goes.

Bottom Line
Promising series debut from a seasoned author.  Check it out!

Around the Blogosphere
Nite Lite Book Reviews
Urban Fantasy Land
Romancing the Dark Side
Step into Fiction
Smexy Books

*The quote "With great power comes great responsibility" is most famous in current pop culture from the Spiderman comic and movies, but it is originally attributable in different forms to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Voltaire, and the Bible.  Don't you feel smarter now?

Note: this post has been reproduced with my permission at www.avonromance.com

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