Review: Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne


Title: Ink & Sigil {Ink & Sigil #1}

Author: Kevin Hearne

Published: 25th August 2020, Orbit

Status: Read August 2929, courtesy Hachette Australia



My Thoughts:


I owe Hachette Australia a huge thanks for sending me Ink & Sigil. I very rarely make a direct request of publishers but upon learning that Kevin Hearne was authoring a spin-off of one of my favourite urban fantasy series – The Iron Druid Chronicles, I asked on the off chance, and Hachette generously responded with a finished copy.

Ink and Sigil is set in the same universe as The Iron Druid Chronicles, though some time after the events of the final series book, Scourged. Here Hearne introduces us to Aloysius “Al” MacBharrais (pronounced Mac-Vare-Ish), who appeared in a short story in Besieged. A Sigil Agent based in Glasgow, Scotland, he is one of just five worldwide helping to manage and enforce the conduct of all manner of otherworldly creatures, spirits and deities who want to visit Earth, with the creation of magical binding contracts. In his early sixties, Al, who is human, maintains a print shop as cover, employing Nadia, a goth battle seer as his manager/accountant/bodyguard/muscle, and a receptionist known to all, except his customers, as Gladys Who Has Seen Some Shite. Al’s a fabulous character with a Scottish brogue, a love of fine whiskey, and not one but two curses on his head, one of which requires him to use a text to speech app to communicate, as extended conversation with anyone causes them to form an irrational hatred of him.

The mystery begins when Al’s apprentice, is found dead, having choked on a raisin scone (which Al later finds is not because raisins don’t belong in scones, but because of his second curse). Inside Gordie’s flat, Al discovers a caged hobgoblin and learns that his apprentice has been trafficking fae, a serious breach of the treaty between fae and humans, and making use of Sigils and inks he should not yet know. Determined to put a stop to the trafficking and learn who had been sharing secrets with Gordie, Al takes custody of the hobgoblin, who introduces himself at Buck Foi, and begins an investigation that leads to an ugly conspiracy. I liked the premise of the mystery, but unfortunately I did feel the execution was a bit weak, with not a lot of suspense or intrigue.

Nevertheless, I delighted in almost every other aspect of the novel. Hearne merges the mundane with the magical well so that the story feels grounded in the here and now, helped by a few pop culture references, yet the magic system overlays convincingly. The humour, though occasionally puerile, regularly made me snicker, and the insults are creative. I enjoyed the sprinkling of Scottish brogue and appreciated Hearne’s guide to pronunciation.

Without a doubt I’m looking forward to further adventures with Al, Buck, and Nadia, and answers to the few threads left unfinished in this novel. Funny, fabulous and fantastical, Ink & Sigil is the start of something promising.



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Also by Kevin Hearne reviewed at Book’d Out