Blood, Ink And Fire – Ashley Mansour

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Blurb: “Imagine a world without books…
In the future, books are a distant memory. The written word has been replaced by an ever-present stream of images known as Verity. In the controlling dominion of the United Vales of Fell, reading is obsolete and forbidden, and readers themselves do not—cannot—exist.
But where others see images in the stream, teenager Noelle Hartley sees words. She’s obsessed with what they mean, where they came from, and why they found her.

Noelle’s been keeping her dangerous fixation with words a secret, but on the night before her seventeenth birthday, a rare interruption in the stream leads her to a mysterious volume linked to an underworld of rebel book lovers known as the Nine of the Rising. With the help of the Risers and the beguiling boy Ledger, Noelle discovers that the words within her are precious clues to the books of the earlier time—and as a child of their bookless age, she might be the world’s last hope of bringing them back.”

*I was sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This book, as mentioned in the blurb, is about the world after books have fallen out of existence. I was nervous going into this because the last book I read about the destruction of books not because the idea of books being harmed in any way is scary to me, but that I read “Fahrenheit 451” and I didn’t enjoy it.

The story follows Noelle who is about to celebrate her seventeenth birthday upon which she will have her immersion. Noelle lives in the UVF (United States of Fell) in one of twenty vales. The four laws of this world are as follows:

  • No valer may leave the UVF without being sanctioned for transfer.
  • Every Valer must absorb Verity’s stream and undergo immersion.
  • Any valer found in possession of the written word, and shares it is considered a traitor.
  • (unstated) Valers don’t discuss treason.

Each home has a stream called “verity” which is a virtual fortress of information. “Verity” prepares those underage for immersion via lessons and generates pictures to the valers of that home.

Noelle likes to play games with her friend John. In these word games, John describes something and Noelle tells him the word for it. John reveals that he is leaving, gives her a map, and tells her to find him before she gets taken for immersion. “Verity” picks up on this and share’s it with Noelle’s family who ban her from seeing John.

Of course, she does what every teen does and runs away, taking her mother’s ID pass to get the train on this little adventure. Noelle meets John’s Grandma who has an actual, physical book and Noelle discovers that she is a reader – the last of a dying breed. Noelle’s actions have devastating consequences. Noelle is forced on the run but determined to fight the people who ruined her life. If only John hadn’t started acting…odd.

This book, from the outside, seemed to have an interesting concept. Given that books pretty much rule my life, it’s terrifying to think about what would happen if they were taken away. It has some current YA tropes running through it that I can see bringing in fans of YA dystopian however, it has a bit of a love interest and some… weird, creepy and irrelevant romance. Things also get very confusing. Even after reflecting on the book when I’d finished (and in fact upon reflection when writing this review) I don’t understand entirely what “Verity” is. And the fact that it wasn’t explained in a way I sort of understood until a good half, maybe even three quarters in, meant I lost my thread and I have to admit, I skim-read the last half.

Noelle was a great character but she was just stuck in the middle of a confusing, not well explained story.
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