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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Book Review: Blood & Ink by Stephen Davies

* I received a copy of this book for free via Goodreads First Reads.

Kadija is the music-loving daughter of a guardian of the sacred manuscripts of the ancient city of Timbuktu, Mali.

Ali is a former shepherd boy, trained as a warrior for Allah.

Tonight, the Islamist rebels are coming for Timbuktu. They will install a harsh regime of law and tear apart the peaceful world within the mud walls of the city. Television, football, radios, even music, will be banned.

Kadija refuses to let go of her former life. And something in her defiance draws Ali to her.

Which path will he choose?

Image credit: Stephen Davies / Andersen Press
Going straight to the point, Blood & Ink has to be one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. Picking it up, I don’t quite know what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t this. Blood & Ink isn’t the sort of book I’d normally read. I don’t know much about the genre, and I know virtually nothing about the events or the culture it features. But having read it, I’m definitely glad I took a chance on it.

Before reading the book I’d never heard of the author, Stephen Davies. However, this just proves how many great undiscovered writers are out there, as I was really impressed with his writing. He has a really involving writing style, descriptive yet still fast-paced, which drags you right into the heart of the story. Davies’ writing helped me to picture everything so vividly that it seemed as if I really was there in Timbuktu with Ali and Kadija. Considering I’ve never been and, as I said, I know very little about the city, that’s pretty impressive.

One thing I would say – don’t base your expectations of the book on its blurb. It’s categorised as YA, though I personally think it should have a much wider appeal, and the blurb makes it out to be little more than a romance. In actual fact it’s much more than that. Blood & Ink is full of passion, belief and hope. We know that the path Ali follows is wrong, but the strength of his belief is overwhelming, really allowing you to see things from his point of view. That’s partly why I like that the book has two narrators, because it’s integral to the story that we can experience and understand both points of view. The main character’s love is also handled masterfully – it’s subtle and complicated, but not the focus of the story.

The characters are all complex, with different emotions and clashing desires and loyalties fighting for dominance within them. I particularly like that aspect of the characters because it really brings them to life. I know they’re fictional characters, but in this story they’re real people. Plus they’re both flawed - defining the ideals of the antihero.

The fact it’s based on true events, real places, and some real people only serves to make Blood & Ink even more impressive. It’s historical fiction at its best, and it’s not ancient history either which is a refreshing change in the genre.

The treatment of women under Redbeard’s misconception of sharia law really got to me. Mistreatment of women and unequal rights is something I feel very strongly about, and men like this who twist religion to suit their own purpose are definitely not acting in the name of God. But anyway, that’s a whole different topic.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Although set in 2012, it’s still such a current issue that the message it has becomes even more powerful. If you can – get yourself a copy. It’ll be worth your time.

Rating: 5 stars.

Blood & Ink is available to buy now.

Will you be reading Blood & Ink? Let me know in the comments below!

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