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Book Review: Ink & Sigil Series by Kevin Hearne

Official blurb: Ink & Sigil (book 1)

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails—and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed…

Official blurb: Paper & Blood (book 2)

But Al isn’t quite alone: He is part of a global network of sigil agents who use their powers to protect the world from mischievous gods and strange monsters. So when a fellow agent disappears under sinister circumstances in Australia, Al leaves behind the cozy pubs and cafes of Glasgow and travels to the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria to solve the mystery.

"He says hello to you all and wishes you happiness and sausage."

(Oberon the Wolfhound as translated by Connor, The Iron Druid.

Paper & Blood Book 2, Ink & Sigil series)

My thoughts

The Ink & Sigil series is a fun and creative urban fantasy full of little twists and turns that also make it a great mystery. Aloysius (just call him Al) MacBharrais lives and works in Glasgow running MacBharrais Printing & Binding, a respectable business doing quite well. He’s also a Sigil Agent for the Goddess Brighid. He’s good at his job, but he’d like to retire. If only his apprentices didn’t keep dying…

Following the gruesome death (by raisin) of his most recent apprentice, Al discovers that someone is smuggling Fae-folk (hobgoblins, pixies, trolls, leprechauns) into the human-realm and performing some bizarre experiments. The beefed-up Fae are violent, angry, and ready to do some damage. It falls to MacBharrais to find out who is behind the travesty. Along the way, he contracts hobgoblin Buck Foi and they travel to America, and make a startling discovery–salsa is like cat-nip to hobgoblins!

The trail leading to the mysterious head Fae-trafficker is bloody and long. With more questions than answers, the intrepid duo return to Scotland where MacBharrais’s Office Manager, Nadia (a highly rated battle-seer in her own right) continues to provide her own brand of support and transport.

Book 2 takes the intrepid sigil agent, MacBharrais and his trusty sidekick, Buck Foi, the quick way to Melbourne using the secret paths in the Fae-realm. How I wish the journey between Scotland and Australia really could be so fast!

After reaching Melbourne, the duo meet with a local apprentice sigil agent whose plea for help brought them half-way around the world. With the local agent plus the Hong Kong agent missing, MacBharrais has a mystery to solve and rescue to plan. He calls on the Iron Druid (who has his own series, but I haven’t read that one yet) and his dogs for help and the team, now grown to six, heads into the hills. The Dandenong Ranges to be specific. Here he makes a surprising discovery about his Canadian receptionist, Gladys-who’s-seen-some-shite, discovers the local SES volunteers aren’t all as they seem, and confronts head-on unbelievable monsters who want only to eat whoever they come across.

Yes, Australia has some deadly snakes and spiders (not to mention the infamous Drop-Bear) but these monsters are far and away much hungrier!

And there’s still the unfortunate curse causing apprentices or faithful contracted assistants to die. The mystery of the twin curses to be solved in book 3 (please tell me there’s a book 3 on its way).

I want to gush over this series. I love everything about it. The irreverence. The creativity and complexity of the storytelling. . I love the characterisations, the language, and the humour imbued into every aspect of the storytelling.

The settings, hidden and well-known, are excellent as is the clever mixing of florals with gin and the philosophy behind MacBharrais’s deep love of making paper.

If you enjoyed novels like Ben Aaronovitch’s ‘Rivers of London’, moving on to Kevin Hearne’s Ink & Sigil series is a straightforward decision.

I’m off now to make paper and sip gin (or whiskey, which I much prefer), and possibly read The Iron Druid Chronicles too.

Title: Ink & Sigil Series

Genre: fantasy adventure, urban fantasy

Age range: 15 plus


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