|Series: The Asylum Tales #1||Rating: 3.5/5|
|Date of Publishing: October 16th 2012||Genre: fantasy, urban fantasy|
|Publisher: Harper Voyager||Available: Amazon|
|Length: 10h 49m||Author’s website: http://www.jocelynndrake.com|
Buyer beware . . . Looking for a tattoo—and maybe a little something extra: a burst of good luck, a dollop of true love, or even a hex on an ex? Head to the quiet and mysterious Gage, the best skin artist in town. Using unique potions—a blend of extraordinary ingredients and special inks—to etch the right symbol, he can fulfill any heart's desire. But in a place like Low Town, where elves, faeries, trolls, werewolves, and vampires happily walk among humanity, everything has its price. No one knows that better than Gage. Turning his back on his own kind, he left the magical Ivory Tower where cruel witches and warlocks rule, a decision that cost him the right to practice magic. And if he disobeys, his punishment—execution—will be swift. Though he's tried to fly under the radar, Gage can't hide from powerful warlocks who want him dead—or the secrets of his own past. But with the help of his friends, Trixie, a gorgeous elf who hides her true identity, and a hulking troll named Bronx, Gage might just make it through this enchanted world alive.
It’s not often that I listen to an audiobook which is not a reread/relisten, because for me it’s easier to follow things if I know the story beforehand so I mostly use it for refreshing my memories or relive my favourite books. Anyway, I made an exception with this one. I’ve got it back when I started to get into audiobooks during a sale, and it’s been sitting in my library for almost 2 years. After my Harry Potter marathon I needed something else, a palate cleanser if you please. Sorry if my spelling is off.
Song of the Book
I decided to go with Papa Roach because 1) they are mentioned in the book and 2) I think their edgy sound matches with Angel’s Ink. Plus No More Secrets’ lyrics fits too. So, really, that’s the perfect choice.
Probably not many people knows as I hardly ever review urban fantasy for the blog, but the genre has a special place in my heart. After all it was an UF series that really hooked me to fantasy and forced me to start to read in English for real. And now here we are.
Angel’s Ink had been sitting in my Audible library since December 2017, so I couldn’t say I was in a hurry to get to it. Audiobooks aren’t my main format for reading, so that’s not much of a surprise. I guess I got it because it was on sale and the blurb seemed really interesting and pretty much had everything that could hook me to a book. The funny thing is, at the time I didn’t have a tattoo yet (but I wanted to have one!) or the blog (funny coincidence with the series title, but then I don’t believe in coincidences), so I had no idea what a good fit it’ll be within 2 years, hah!
As urban fantasies go, I pretty much enjoyed Angel’s Ink, but I also had a few issues, which is why I ultimately decided to review it.
Gage lives a, well, let’s call it quiet life, running a tattoo parlor along with his friends Trixie, a beautiful (of course) and mysterious elf and Bronx, a troll who doesn’t talk much but knows more than you’d think. All three of them has their own secrets and troubling pasts they try running from, but past has that annoying habit to catch up with you when you least expect it. Trouble comes knocking on the Asylum’s door in the face of a young woman with terminal illness, looking for a tattoo to fulfill her last wish. Things go downhill from here as Gage tries to unmake his mistakes and avoid early retirement – for the disappointment of many parties.
I liked Gage as a character – he is somewhat your typical UF male MC with a quirky attitude, a knack for trouble, a tortured past and a big kind heart. But of course it works, because, let’s face it, we all love characters like him – though poor guy could have do with a much better name than Gage. The narrator – Michael Urie – did a pretty good job impersonating him, and most of the characters. I hated his voice for Trixie with a passion though. He made her sound like an affecting bitch, and I don’t think she was that. Especially since she liked to listen to bands like Papa Roach, and that’s a nice big point from me. The chemistry between the characters worked well, banters and all. I especially liked Bronx and Sophie – I hope she’ll get a bigger part in the story later on, because she has an interesting background and I’m pretty sure she’s a mischievous one.
What I had an issue with was the plot(s). Where to start? The love plot. Because, yes, there is a love interest *eyeroll*. To be fair I liked the relationship itself, they are good together. However. It would have worked much better if they were already in a relationship to begin with and were introduced as such. Personally I just don’t see the necessity to insert such a cliché into the story. It was OBVIOUS to even blind people that they were in love, and that the author intended for them to have a relationship, and I don’t think it added anything to the story in general that – conveniently – they started to realise their feelings right around the time we dropped into their lives. Seriously, I would have just left this whole thing out as it was annoying, and that sex scene was just… ugh, a bit too much information. If I was interested in some steamy scenes, I would have picked a romance book. And I don’t like romance books.
So, that was one unecessary plotline, without which there would have been space for a bit more worldbuilding. All we know is that we are in a city, and that the world is ruled by warlocks who live in Ivory Towers – but why and where the name comes from and a few other questions are never answered. There are hints about a past war which made some races extinct, but these are only hints. We never really learn about that either. Or about why the warlocks are said to be evil and why they need to practically kidnap young kids who have magical abilities. There is a lot of saying and not much showing which makes the world feel like its built out of carton shapes. You know what I mean? Like it’s all an illusion, a stage decoration. Everything is subordinated to cram as many plotlines (and creatures) into the book as possible, while it would have benefited if there was only one or two but those were well rounded out. It feels like the author wanted to add a lot of action and throw in a lot of hardships for the characters to deal with, but it resulted in chaos and too many unanswered questions. Drake wanted to give a history to all three characters – Gage, Trixie, Bronx – by dragging their past into the present, but all she managed to do was overcomplicate things and take away the focus from worldbuilding and from her characters to really have time to shine. Less would have been more as I’m sure there would be plenty of time as the series progressed to slowly introduce these plotlines and actually make more sense out of them.
Despite my complaints, I still enjoyed Angel’s Ink. Books with snarky protagonists are my weaknesses and besides I really dug the idea of a magical tattoo shop. Especially one in which there is at least one person with a great music taste – fun fact, when I almost got my first tattoo, I bonded with my artist over my favourite Hungarian band, so that was cool and set the mood early on. The Asylum Tales (I swear this wasn’t an inspiration for my feature) has the potential to be a good series if it gets a bit cleared up and the world itself gets a bit more attention. I blew through the audiobook pretty fast, so I imagine it must be a fast read as well. If you need a palate cleanser, as I did and look for some fun – although a bit dark – UF read, then absolutely give a go to Angel’s Ink.