More often than not, fantasy serves as an allegory of the world we live in. Sometimes, the allegory is clearer than at other times, and I suppose part of that is cultural. For instance, when I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time, I didn’t know enough to make the obvious connections.
With Ink, it was different. Especially with the right wing on the rise all around us, the links between the the protagonist Leora’s world and our world assault us. In the fantastic world of Ink, every important event is marked on your skin. Your name, your family, your qualifications. And then, you choose marks of your own that you would like to add to your skin – and having marks there is a sign of your integrity, for what to you have to hide? Let the world see you for what you are! Those who hide are likely to be untrustworthy, cheats, thieves.
Long ago, there were blanks who – incredible! – refused to mark their skin. Of course, this was a sign of something shifty. As children, Leora and her friends are told fairy stories about the marked and the blanks. The worst thing about the blanks is that when it comes to the moment of reckoning, with nothing on their skin, they are doomed for eternity. They have nothing to show for what they did in life. The marked ones are flayed once dead and then comes the weighing of the soul, where judges decide whether the person is worth remembering or must perish in eternal flames. If the person is worth remembering, a book made of the person’s skin is given to the family. If not, the book is thrown into the fire.
This is the way it is. And this is the way it should be.
As Leora finishes school and begins to work, she begins to question her faith. In the fairytale about the first marked and the first blank (the White Witch), they learn how the blanks are forgotten because there’s nothing to remember them by. But Leora is forced to ask, when every child, generation after generation, is told the story of the White Witch, is she really forgotten?
Mistrust, loyalty, faith and questions of how society itself functions are woven together in Ink, a powerfully told story with a rich narrative style. I love how in the beginning, we accept everything – it’s a new world, fantasy, you suspend disbelief, see things through the character’s eyes …
And then we question. Because of Leora and her dear friend Verity, we question. I devoured the book through the day and felt my pulse rate as I approached the climax. At the end, though, I wanted more. I wanted the story to leave me with a greater feeling of if not triumph, then possibility.
And maybe more will come, for this is, after all, the first of a series. Needless to say, I will look out for the others.
|Rating (out of 5)||4|