Ink & Sigil by Kevin HearneInk & Sigil by Kevin HearneInk & Sigil by Kevin Hearne

Fans of Kevin Hearne’s popular IRON DRUID CHRONICLES will be thrilled to learn that Hearne has a new spin-off series: INK & SIGIL. The first novel, Ink & Sigil (2020), introduces Al MacBharrais, an older widowed gentleman who has a unique talent. He uses special inks to create sigils that hack the brain through the ocular nerve. For example, the Sigil of Porous Mind makes the target open to suggestion, the Sigil of Certain Authority makes the caster appear to have the authority to do whatever they’re doing, and the Sigil of Quick Compliance makes the target want to do whatever the sigil writer asks.

Al is ready to retire, but every time he’s got an apprentice nearly trained up, the apprentice dies in some freak accident. As Ink & Sigil begins, the latest apprentice (number seven, to be exact) has choked on a scone. During the investigation, Al discovers that his apprentice was using sophisticated sigils that Al hadn’t yet taught him and that he was involved in some dirty deeds that need to be uncovered and prosecuted. Al also learns that all those bizarre apprentice deaths are probably not just bad luck.

Kevin Hearne

Kevin Hearne

Though he’s not as charming as Atticus O’Sullivan (the Iron Druid), Al MacBharrais is a pleasant protagonist who has a really cool talent. What makes him even more interesting is that he’s been cursed — the longer he talks to people, the less they like him. This has caused major problems in his personal life, including estrangement from his son. Once he figured out what was happening, Al started using a text-to-speech app that uses a slightly stilted London accent. This makes for much humor when listening to Random House Audio’s version narrated by the skillful and hilarious Luke Daniels. (Daniels does all of Hearne’s books and I wouldn’t even consider reading them in any other format.)

Al’s manager, a lesbian who might be a demigod and likes to spend her time in fight clubs, is also amusing, as is Al’s new assistant, a hobgoblin named Buck Foi, and the basement-dwelling hacker who styles himself “Saxon Codpiece.” IRON DRUID fans will be happy to see cameo appearances by Atticus and Oberon. It turns out that their stories are tangentially linked, but there’s no need to read the IRON DRUID CHRONICLES first.

I’m looking forward to following Al’s story in the next INK & SIGIL novel.

Published in August 2020. Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails – and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae. But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse. But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective – while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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