Inkmistress is a prequel of sorts to Audrey Coulthurt’s debut novel Of Fire and Stars, and was one of my anticipated queer reads of 2018.
About ‘Inkmistress’ by Audrey Coulthurst:
Asra is a demigod with a dangerous gift: the ability to dictate the future by writing with her blood. To keep her power secret, she leads a quiet life as a healer on a remote mountain, content to help the people in her care and spend time with Ina, the mortal girl she loves.
But Asra’s peaceful life is upended when bandits threaten Ina’s village and the king does nothing to help. Desperate to protect her people, Ina begs Asra for assistance in finding her manifest—the animal she’ll be able to change into as her rite of passage to adulthood. Asra uses her blood magic to help Ina, but her spell goes horribly wrong and the bandits destroy the village, killing Ina’s family.
Unaware that Asra is at fault, Ina swears revenge on the king and takes a savage dragon as her manifest. To stop her, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom, becoming a player in lethal games of power among assassins, gods, and even the king himself.
Most frightening of all, she discovers the dark secrets of her own mysterious history—and the terrible, powerful legacy she carries in her blood.
‘Inkmistress’ book review
Though Audrey Coulthurst’s debut novel, Of Fire and Stars, was an enjoyable read, it didn’t quite blow me away. There was, however, a lot of untapped potential in the world, and I found myself looking forward to returning to it.
Inkmistress takes place long before the events of Of Fire and Stars unfold. It follows Asra, a somewhat uncertain-in-herself-and-her-powers demigod, and her relationship with a mortal girl called Ina. Asra’s love of Ina is deep, and unwavering, but also blinds her to Ina’s manipulations. It was a difficult connection to see play out over the pages, but it was well handled in how Asra eventually came to terms with what that relationship truly was.
After helping Ina in manifesting her powers, Asra suffers heartbreak and betrayal, and attempts to do her best to set it right. Inkmistress allows Asra to run the gamut of her feelings, as painful as they are, but also to heal on her own terms and in her own time.
What was surprising, in the best possible way, is that even though Asra is in love with, and has a relationship with, a woman at the beginning of the book, when she later falls for another, male, character, her bisexuality is not erased. It is very abundantly clear that she is attracted to, and feels love for both. That this is something that is entirely missing from media dealing with a bisexual lead showcases that there is still a long way to go when it comes to its depiction.
Though Inkmistress sometimes suffered from a little bit of info-dumping, the world and universe in which this novel, and Of Fire and Stars, is set was expanded in ways that makes me excited to see how Coulthurst will add to it.
The magic system, especially when relating to demigods, was well thought out, and how the characters interact with their powers was also fascinating. There are limitations and consequences to using those powers, ones that could prove to throw an interesting wrench into the works in future novels within this universe.
Inkmistress was, overall, a pleasant read. There was an abundance of magic, action, friendship, love, secret societies, and some surprising twists. Yes, betrayal was a central driving force throughout, but there was also an emphasis on hope and belief.
I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on whatever Coulthurst writes next.