A fantasy world with strange gods, magical tattoos, wizards and sorcerers, a conquered city, a duchess in exile, and a whirlwind of action. I liked it. Enough that after reading Ink Mage, I requested the following two books in the trilogy.
What surprised me a few minutes ago when I checked the reviews was that the reviews of Ink Mage ran the gamut from 1 star to 5 stars. Those who didn't like it, really, really didn't like it. Plenty more reviewers liked it a great deal with 4-5 stars.
Reasons for low ratings ranged from the cursing, the sex, and the predictability. But...Ink Mage isn't listed as a YA novel (and I've read plenty of YA novels that contained much more of all 3 critical areas) and while I felt the cursing was maybe a little modern and I noticed it, it didn't seem over-the-top. The sex...well, there is a brothel in the city that plays an important role. As for predictability, yes. Hard to find a fantasy that doesn't have elements that are predictable, and fantasy tropes are always going to be present in some degree.
Think of Jung and Joseph Campbell, archetypes, collective unconscious, etc. Stories repeat themselves, but certain elements will always be included. I found enough original approaches to satisfy me, and I like fantasy tropes.
Heroes are constructions; they are not real. All societies have similar hero stories not because they coincidentally made them up on their own, but because heroes express a deep psychological aspect of human existence. They can be seen as a metaphor for the human search of self-knowledge. In other words, the hero shows us the path to our own consciousness through his actions. Source
Rina, the main character, is both human and heroic. Her rather pampered life is interrupted when her city is conquered by invaders and betrayal, but she rises to the occasion. The minor characters are also well-developed, flawed, and capable of growth.
I liked that all of the women were strong and competent-- contributing instead of being shunted to the side. They aren't perfect, each one has flaws, but neither are they placeholders or dependent on men. When given the opportunity, even the women of the brothel prove their worth over and over; given their minor roles, I especially liked seeing this. (just realized I'm skipping ahead with the "over and over" phrase, but these former prostitutes carry into the next books).
I liked that Gischler wrapped things up; there is no real cliffhanger, even though you know the stories and the characters have two more books to go.
The novels are not epic fantasy in the way of Kate Elliot, Robin Hobb, Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, but the series does have some interesting characters, some moral dilemmas, and has some unique touches.
Fantasy. 2013. Print length: 402 pages.
The Tattooed Duchess presents new problems. The threat of a renewed invasion still exists and a new and even more malevolent menace is arising. A conflict is arising among the gods, and Rina must seek more tattoos of power to be able to combat the coming perils.
The story expands, and the original "team" begins to split up to take care of specific problems.
Fantasy. 2015. Print length: 370 pages.
A Painted Goddess brings the trilogy to a conclusion. I have to admit to liking the first one the most, but there was no way I would have abandoned the series before finding out what happened to all of the characters...and it wasn't at all what I would have expected from the first book alone.
I liked the focus of the first book and felt the multiple perspectives and separate missions had a diffuse effect on the last two.
Fantasy. Jan. 19, 2016. Print length: 402 pages.