Bingo 15: New Series
Book 1 of the Ink & Sigil series (Ink & Sigil) came out in August 2020; book 2, presented momentarily, came out in 2021, just under a year later. It’s a recent enough publication that I was actually a little surprised to see it in the library. I was glad to see it though, both because I enjoyed book 1 and also because I was a little stuck for this square, but no longer.
Paper & Blood picks up about where the first book leaves off with Al and Buck considering what to do about the curse on Al that might eventually kill Buck. That problem keeps getting brought up off and on and I hope that means it’ll get addressed more closely in book 3. Since there’s very little new information or time really to devote to it here, it’s a mild annoyance how often it comes up; there’s one hint about the double curse but that hint doesn’t really turn into much. Yet.
The main problem is that two of Al’s sigil agent colleagues and their top apprentices go missing, and so he and Buck go to Australia to investigate. I don’t quite understand why this needed to happen in Australia except that it’s maybe an excuse to play a little with Australian slang? Per the author’s note (very similar to the first one in book 1), he likes really trying to capture the dialect (Glasgow Scots for Al, Buck, and Nadiya) and has an interest in the subject. I appreciate this, but it’s a little disappointing that the same attention given to their speech doesn’t seem to apply to the Aussie characters nearly as much. Al’s main assisting figure this time is the Iron Druid who goes by Connor now, the star of a different series which I haven’t read. The most interesting thing about him is his dogs; being a Druid, he can actually talk to them, and they to him. There’s a lot more attention to this than in the previous novel, and it’s both entertaining and somewhat realistic; Oberon the wolfhound for example has a fixation on sausage as a treat.
The overall problem for me about the story in general is that it’s pretty basic: stop major monster invasion of our plane and figure out who was responsible. While there are at least two side characters of interest, one new but recognizable to those who know their Celtic mythology (she goes by Roxanne here), and the other is Gladys, Al’s secretary, who has some secrets Al apparently did not know, but we’ll just say that her epithet “Gladys Who Has Seen Some Shite” turns out to be more meaningful than Al seems to have ever figured. Back to story, there about a 25 page pause in on the way to the main battle for various characters to tell some tales, mostly backstory, that maybe have some general thematic or character relevant meaning, but this doesn’t fit well into the main story. Sure, the full story of Helga Thunderpoot is interesting but it has little to do with the demon incursion in Australia and the missing sigil agents.
Overall, this is still a mostly entertaining lighter read, but it’s got some irritations as I’ve noted. I also don’t’ see why the prefatory summary of book 1 is necessary; sure some familiarity with the world ad characters helps, but plot-wise it’s not all that relevant. I’m also a little disappointed we don’t even get a mention of Saxon Codpiece; he was one of the best characters from book 1, and an update at least on whether he managed to escape the danger cause by his association with Al’s previous adventure would have been nice.