In this fantasy sequel, a young tattooist learns that contradictory stories can be true.
After dramatically defying Saintstone’s customs, Leora Flint is exiled to live among the blanks of Featherstone—not in punishment but as a spy. The blanks view her community’s obligatory tattooed marks as abominations. To her surprise, they aren’t the aggressors she was taught to hate but peaceful, accepting, desperately poor, and hungry. As she discovers more about her own parents’ pasts, Leora regrets her mission and is faced with a dilemma: Betray the blanks or the people she loves will face the consequences. Leora’s first-person narration remains vacillating, naïve, and guilt-ridden even as others hail her as uniquely special and influential. Additionally, the inconsistent worldbuilding from the first title remains muddled. Still, this entry gains power from the explicit comparisons between the two societies: Both are benevolent utopias on the surface, finding equal beauty in all genders, skin tones, and body shapes, and each slowly reveals dark undercurrents of deception, fear, and anger. Broadway’s (Ink, 2018) lush (if occasionally overwrought) prose is especially effective when narrating the dark foundational myths of Featherstone interspersed throughout the narrative, forming a reverse mirror to the tales of Saintstone. The pacing is taut and suspenseful, right up to a shocking cliffhanger which seems to belong to another genre entirely.
Interesting, if uneven; will appeal to fans of the first volume. (Fantasy. 14-18)