by Dylan Farrow
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
**I received a copy of the book through Netgalley for an honest review.**
After her brother dies of the Blot, Shae and her mom are ostracized and forced to move outside of the village. When her dreams start to come true and the things she stitches manifests itself in real life, she begins to worry that maybe the Blot has not only taken her brother but has also cursed her. Her search to remove the curse is cut short when her mother is murdered and the village refuses to acknowledge her account of what happened, effectively trying to silence her. Lies are twisted into truths, making Shae question what she knows, or thought she knew, but she will not stop until she finds her mother’s murderer.
The tone she sets at the beginning of the book is eerie and ominous but it doesn’t quite carry through to the rest of the book. The latter part of it left me more frustrated than intrigued, more exasperated than in suspense–states both largely attributed to Shae’s behavior even understandable as her behavior was. Shae is a generally likeable protagonist but has a penchant for not listening and being impulsive. (Also, don’t get me started on her crush on Ravod.) The best way I can explain this is when you’re watching a horror movie and the character does something you know will put them in danger, or worse killed. While you should be at the edge of your seat, you’re instead sitting back and just yelling, “Why did you just do that? Don’t open the door! Now, you’re going to die!” That’s how the last two thirds of the book felt like: “What are you doing? Why did you just say that? Stop bumping into things!” Again, her behavior is understandable (I need to remind myself of this) but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating or infuriating. I guess if that was in fact Farrow’s goal, then it worked. Everything does come together at the end fairly well, maybe even a little too nicely, but it leaves you with enough questions that you’ll want to read the next installments.
Despite my frustration, I found Farrow to be a masterful storyteller. The strength of the book comes from the recurring theme of truth. Farrow weaves it into the story so effortlessly. The magic of the Bards or the gift of Telling is illusion and manipulation. Someone with the gift can Tell a lock to become mangled so that a door can be opened but the power of the illusion, or the lie, has a limited lifespan. It will eventually revert back to its true form yet the illusion was still powerful enough to allow someone to walk through the door, essentially making a profound impact on outcomes. Ink is powerful in its ability to communicate the truth. Instilling fear in ink, in spreading words, works effectively to obscure truth. What is the use of learning to write or learning to read when one can die from it? The sickness that comes from ink is known as the Blot, and what does a blot do but to stain and hide. It’s all so smartly done. This is the reason for my 4 stars when the story started to dip into 3 star territory.