Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I had a price to pay for my choices.“
In Low Town, where elves, fairies, trolls, werewolves, and vampires are happily walking among humanity, everything has its price. Gage just wants to run his tattoo parlor and live a quiet fuss free life, but this former warlock is finding out that what he wants and what he’ll get are two very different things. Leaving the Ivory Tower, where the warlocks and witches of the world rule with an iron fist, has left Gage with a huge target on his back as no one EVER leaves the Ivory Tower alive. Gage was allowed to leave only if he never uses his magic for anything but self defense, however, circumstances cause Gage to break this rule on many different occasions. When Gage finds himself hunted by his former mentor, the grim reaper, a mob boss, and a werewolf, Gage hopes that with a little help from his friends, he may just live to see tomorrow.
Angel’s Ink is the first installment in a new urban fantasy series by bestselling author Jocelyn Drake. I adored Ms. Drakes Nightwalker series and was excited to see her penning a new and obviously different type of series. Angel’s Ink has an interesting premise and introduces us to a supernatural world where everything and everyone lives together; though not necessarily in harmony. As this is heavily character driven, I found the world building suffers as it tries to complete against the overwhelming and convoluted amount of subplots presented. I would have enjoyed learning more about the world presented, the war that brought this world to where it’s at now, and more about the various groups of supernaturals that we are introduced to.
Told in the first person, our main protagonist, Gage, the sole proprietor of the Asylum Tattoo Parlor, has a huge secret. A former apprentice warlock who didn’t agree with the cruel indicts of the warlock/witch community, he left that world only to find himself under a death sentence. His life is contingent upon his promise to never use his magic in any shape or form except for self defense. As Gage struggles to remain under the Ivory Tower’s radar, his altruistic nature places him on the path of no return when he fulfills a young girl’s dying wish with a tattoo. Gage inks the tattoo with a special ink mixture that he hopes will make her last few days comfortable. Only, the ingredients he uses have a catastrophic effect and suddenly Gage has to find this girl before he finds himself on the chopping block.
Gage is an interesting protagonist. His backstory and characterization reminds me of calmer, younger, Harry Dresden. Gage is a loner. His history requires him to not form lasting attachments to anyone yet he is fiercely loyal to his friends, regardless of the outcome. A former warlock who is at the mercy of a council deadset on erasing him, he has a natural altruistic nature that constantly pits him against various opposing factions. He only wants to be left alone, but Gage’s inability to say no to anyone, conflicts with his own agenda. While it goes a long way to building Gage’s character, it is also a cause for concern concerning the storyline. We are given multiple conflicts that sends us into various directions as Gage’s decisions set off chain reactions, causing him even further problems. I did have some problems connecting to him. While I enjoyed his thoughts and actions, there was a small part of me that felt like he was ambiguous. I did enjoy that in dealing with a male protagonist, we aren’t made to suffer through overly emotional angst or breakdowns. Gage deals with things in a forthright manner and that is blessing these days when emotional bloodletting and closed off protagonists are the main ingredient of most genres.
There is the beginning of a romance between Gage and Trixie that progresses slowly throughout the storyline. Enjoyable in that I like seeing Gage with someone, but in some ways it feels forced. I would have liked to have waited longer in the series to build up the tension for the readers. You may get the feeling that you’re missing something but there is a novella before this installment that actually sets this storyline up.
A strong personable secondary cast adds depth and understanding to the plotlines and Gage’s life. Trixie, an elf, and Bronx, a troll, are both employees of Gage’s and fast becoming his best friends. Both Bronx and Trixie have what I suspect are complicated back stories, though only Trixie’s is revealed in depth. Gideon, Gage’s handler from the Ivory Tower, is an enigma. His constant threats and bullying Gage over using magic outside of self defense are in line with his job but we are given hints that lead us to believe there is more to all of this than we or Gage think.
Plenty of dry humor and wit is sprinkled throughout the book as we learn more about vampire OCD, and a certain werewolf conflict presents itself in a unique and funny manner. As stated earlier, there is a plethora of subplots in here that cascades over you as you try and sort out exactly what the main conflict is. I enjoyed the various subplots though we aren’t allowed to spend much time with any of them as Drake keeps Gage jumping, trying to stay alive and one step ahead of everyone. Various one scene characters are introduced that clue us into future storylines, which only adds to the confusion in my opinion. Some conflict(s) which intertwine and play off each other towards the end, are somewhat resolved, all in predictable manners. I really can’t say more without spoiling but needless to say, this book is a set up book all the way, though more in characterization and storylines rather than the usual world building aspect.
Regardless of my feelings of misgiving, I did find the overall presentation and introduction interesting and engaging enough to warrant a continuation when book two releases. There are two novellas that predate this release and a third novella that happens after this book. The first two novellas introduce us to Trixie and Bronx and tell us how they came to work for Gage. In the anthology, Blood By Moonlight (releases Oct 23, 2012), we get a small but action packed story after Angel’s Ink.
Overall Rating: C