REVIEW: Blood Ink & Fire by Ashley Mansour

*A copy of this book was provided by Upturn Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*

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Standalone
Publication Date: December 1st 2015 by Upturn Publishing
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopia, Fantasy
Number of Pages: 464
My Rating: ★★✩✩✩

Amazon // iBooks // Goodreads


synopsis

Imagine a world without books…
In the future, books are a distant memory. The written word has been replaced by an ever-present stream of images known as Verity. In the controlling dominion of the United Vales of Fell, reading is obsolete and forbidden, and readers themselves do not—cannot—exist.
But where others see images in the stream, teenager Noelle Hartley sees words. She’s obsessed with what they mean, where they came from, and why they found her.

Noelle’s been keeping her dangerous fixation with words a secret, but on the night before her seventeenth birthday, a rare interruption in the stream leads her to a mysterious volume linked to an underworld of rebel book lovers known as the Nine of the Rising. With the help of the Risers and the beguiling boy Ledger, Noelle discovers that the words within her are precious clues to the books of the earlier time—and as a child of their bookless age, she might be the world’s last hope of bringing them back.

Blood, Ink & Fire is a gripping, evocative tale that asks, who would we be without books?


review

Blood Ink & Fire is set in 2056 where books, or any form of the written word, and reading are considered forbidden. The United Vales of Fell wants complete control over its people and therefore altering their [the people’s] brains to unable them to read and write. Valers also have to go through “immersion” on the day of their 17th birthday.

Noelle Hartley, unlike anyone else, was born with the gift of words. She escaped Vale and, with a mission to complete all nine remaining books to defeat Fell, into the Nine Sovereigns she went.

Let’s get started with the things I love about this book: The premise. It has such an interesting premise. I have no idea whatsoever of a world without books and I don’t want to imagine it.

I also love a couple of quotes about books and readers, especially this one:

The books need the readers as much as the reader needs the books. One just isn’t complete without the other.

Imagine a world without books… can you? Of course you can’t! And Ashley Mansour made that possible for you. . . kinda. Eek.

For a debut author, I believe Mansour has done very well in terms of writing, but I didn’t appreciate the world building. Don’t get me wrong—Mansour writes so beautifully and in a very detailed way, but that’s also the problem; there’s a ton of info-dumping. I was forced into a world I don’t know about and with no proper introduction. I had to figure most things out on my own. It was confusing as it was frustrating because I had to go a few pages back several times to comprehend what I just read.

I also find the first-person narrative unconvincing.
Quoting Goodreads user Accio Reviews:

Considering that most of the characters in this world have not had access to books their whole lives, I would assume their communication skills are not as developed as ours are today and that it would be evident in the narration. Reading this story with a writing style that is elaborate and resorts to unusual phrasing choices that a person in that environment would most likely not use became difficult, since it made it harder to connect. You can’t feel like you are inside the story because the writing does not make it believable.

I couldn’t have said it any better.

The characters were inconsistent and they fell flat for me. One time they’re strong and brave and the next they’re whiny and bitchy and… sigh. I just didn’t like any of them, especially Noelle! And we all know what it’s like to read a book you hate the protagonist of. Noelle is such a bad character. She’s literally the most selfish protagonist I’ve ever encountered. ~*THIS MIGHT BE A BIT SPOILERY. CLICK SKIP IF YOU MIND, CONTINUE IF YOU DONT*~ For example, that one time she made a deal with her enemies to give up the books WHICH WAS HER MISSION TO SAVE IN THE FIRST PLACE to save the person she loves.

I get that she’s already lost everyone in her life, but seriously??? I honestly thought that part was a strategy to buy her more time but freaking no, she doesn’t have any other plan. And she’s expected to save the world? Like??? I mean??? Nope. Not gonna happen.


Also, the pacing was weird. Mansour seemed to have too many ideas playing in her mind and put them all in one book, hence turning it into something that felt rushed (although the book was so long!). It would have been better if there were only 3 or 5 sovereigns to go through for better introduction to each one of them. The Risers (the “rebels”) were not as remarkable as I believe they should be because of the same problem. The plot would also drag on terribly during some parts yet some of the most interesting, intense scenes are incredibly rushed. I was like pleeeease make this last.

The insta-love was super duper annoying. They were like cardboard cutouts who were forced into kissing each other’s noses. They have no chemistry at all and it did not help that the characters were unlikable, for me at least. And the love triangle! Oh my gosh, don’t even get me started. You have no idea how infuriating this is.

*meets someone from 5 minutes ago*
“I KNOW YOU LIKE ME TOO”
OH MY GOD I’VE ONLY MET HIM LIKE 5 MINS AGO BUT HE’S SO HANDSOME SO I’M JUST GONNA KISS HIM AND NOT EVEN MIND THAT I HAVE A… SORT-OF-BOYFRIEND WAITING FOR ME OUTSIDE! LOL!

It literally came out of nowhere. I was like, what the hell just happened?

While writing this review, I was also reading through my notes and saw “how convenient is this plot” and I remember it’s also one of the problems I had with this book—how convenient things would go to advance the plot.

There was this character that came along with them because she believes it’s her “purpose to help” and then after a few pages she just abandons them because she believes it’s where she “belongs”. Probably because her role is done so the author just simply kicked her out of the story. Nice.

There were many other convenient things that happened to advance the plot but I won’t elaborate on that.

The ending was also very confusing. Would anyone be willing to help me understand? It made no sense to me.

This book had soooo much potential. There are also really nice quotes about books and readers that I loved and bookmarked. I didn’t like the book as a whole as much as I thought I would. I thought this book was just not for me, but I’m pretty sure a lot of readers will enjoy it. I’m looking forward to more of Mansour’s works; there’s no denying she works incredibly with words.

 

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