Review: “Bound by Ink,” Marcella Burnard

Pros: Very interesting world
Cons: Confusing
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review ebook provided free by Penguin Group via NetGalley.


Marcella Burnard’s Bound by Ink (A Living Ink Novel) is not the first book in the series (that distinction belongs to Nightmare Ink), but as usual, the vagaries of receiving review books meant that I read it first. I do not recommend trying this; there’s a lot that seemed out of the blue, or confusing, that probably would have worked fine if I’d read the other book first. Since I didn’t get to see the buildup of the character chemistries I had trouble buying into one or two of them. It’s a very rich world, but it’s also a very complex world that clearly relies upon the worldbuilding in the first novel. I enjoyed it enough that I do plan to read that prior book. I already have it on my wish list, and as an ebook it currently seems to be at a very reasonable price.


After being kidnapped and forcibly Inked with a Living Tattoo named Murmur, Isa thought she’d survived the worst her enemies could throw at her. She was wrong. Murmur is walking around her world in someone else’s body, and without him, Isa is losing control of her magic.

Then, in the middle of rush hour, a Live Tattoo comes off its host, killing over a hundred people. Isa discovers that Murmur’s nemesis, Uriel—a demon she believed defeated—is responsible. He’s seeking the power to force his way back into Isa’s world. If he succeeds, everyone Isa loves will be destroyed. There may be a way to stop him, but it will mean sacrificing Murmur—or herself…


Living tattoos are a wonderful concept with so much potential. There’s a lot of tension and some heart-pounding moments. Some of the high moments are a blend of philosophy and dialogue; I believe those would mean more to me if I had the background of the first book. The slowed pace that makes room for that dialogue needs that background to up the tension, so if it’s been a while since you read book one, I recommend that you refresh your memory by reading it again first.

The characters are quite interesting. I love Isa and Murmur the most; they have a lot of personality and they interact in fascinating ways. The difference in the ways people react to Isa (particularly during some demanding events for which she sometimes has to make sacrifices) adds danger and tension to even the quieter, slower moments. There’s a fascinating look at spiritual journeys, other realms, attitudes toward Living Ink tattoos and so forth that enrich the already lively world. This is a delicious example of strong worldbuilding and I look forward to seeing more of it.

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