There are no secrets in Saintstone . . .
Imagine a world where your every action, your every deed, is marked on your skin for all to see. And Leora has something to hide.
Ink is the debut novel of author Alice Broadway; a young adult, fantasy novel set in a world where all your actions (achievements, failures, crimes etc) are tattooed onto your skin for all see. It is, essentially, the story of your life and, when you die, is used to pass judgement on your life and determine whether you will be remembered, or forgotten. However, when Leora’s own father passes, her whole world is turned upside down as she begins to find out the truth about her family, about herself, and about the blanks.
Alice Broadway presents an immensely unique concept within this novel, one I have never seen before. It is a concept that I found both weird, yet strangely intriguing. Weird, in the sense that the skin of each person is flayed from their bodies when they pass and re-purposed into a book of their life, intriguing in that it makes perfect sense. Why wouldn’t you want to remember your loved ones from the memories inked upon their skin for all to see?
Ink is an original novel that drew me in immediately and Broadway truly knows how to build the world instantly. I never once felt out of place in Saintstone thanks to Broadway’s ability to incorporate the world around you into the writing whilst introducing Leora at the beginning of the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the stories that are implemented throughout the novel that are from this world, and could clearly see the influences from our own tales. However, this novel isn’t just about the tattoos marked upon your skin since the moment you are brought into the world, but it is about prejudice, politics, society, and culture. It is about being different and standing out from the crowd. Throughout the entirety of the novel, Leora faces conflict within herself in trying to decide what her first ever tattoo should be (her first tattoo that she herself can choose as opposed to a government-issues one) as she believes that her tattoos should be important and have meaning, as opposed to those who just tattoo their skin at every given opportunity. Other than her government issued tattoos, she is blank – and she fears that this is how she will stay for the rest of her life.
Broadway brings forward issues surrounding prejudice through the main plotline of the tattoos being inked upon the skin. As the novel progresses we are reminded of the two different “types” of people living in this world, those who are marked by tattoos, and the blanks. Blanks are people that do not tattoo their skin to document their life and their achievements and actions. These people are seen as outcasts because of this, their skin empty of meaning and significance – they are outcasts. Leora’s story is strongly intertwined with the blanks, something that she does not become aware of until towards the end of the novel and it is something that she herself disapproves of, solely due to her upbringing within the society that she lives in. Leora is brought into the politics of these issues through her chosen career path, an inker, as she is confronted with the rebels and becomes unsure of her position.
Though there is so much going on within this novel, it does not feel like it is thrown in your face. Broadway presents all these issues so prevalent within our society in a way that is evident but not intrusive. Ink is a novel that is about trust and understanding who you are in a society that prides itself on remembrance. On the side, Leora is a character that understands who she is until everything is completely thrown on its head. The once quiet girl who obeyed the rules becomes strong-willed and stubborn, doing what she can due to what she believes is right. It is only when she truly knows who she is that you feel like she comes into her own and that is when she gets her first tattoo and truly stands out from the crowd.
I’m happy that there is more than one book within this series. I really grew attached to Leora and the difficulties that she faced both personally, and politically. It is clear, in both Leora and me, as a reader, that there is a lot more to learn about the issues between the blanks and those marked by society and I would love to find out more about how society came to be how it is today within the novel.