Cover Image: Ink & Sigil

Ink & Sigil

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I ended up enjoying this about as much as I thought I would, which is to say: it's a perfectly fine urban fantasy starter, heavier in this initial installment on the world-building than the mystery itself, full of some delights and some shrugs. The voice takes a minute to get used to, both because of the brogue and the particular trick of Al not really ~speaking~ much in the verbal way... but also, I liked the way Hearne dealt with that and it made for some interesting delights. The sigils, too, were a cool magic trope that I enjoyed. 

I could see myself returning to this series in the future, when I want some comfort food. I'm not sure I can heartily recommend it but I wouldn't turn anybody away.
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When I got accepted to receive a free copy of this book I was stoked. I loved 'The Iron Druid Chronicles' and couldn't wait to read another book from that world. You do not need the previous series to enjoy this book, but little things will have more meaning if you do. This book book is within the same world, but the flavor and pacing of this book is different. It takes place about a year after the gods tried to start Ragnorok.

Aloysius 'Al' MacBharrais is an older but spry man who has been trained as a Sigil Agent. He and his fellow agents use magical inks written on paper to protect the world, uphold the treaty between man and the Fae and write magical contracts for the the word's pantheons. He's cursed and must avoid talking to people too much or risk them hating him and his apprentices keep dying on him in mysterious accidents. I hope Al's curse of having to use a voice to text mechanism gets resolved early in this series as I felt it bogged things down more often than enhanced the storyline.

This book is filled with interesting, unique characters, that are just as interesting if not more so than Al. As Al tries to uncover what his last apprentice was up to before he died, we learn about a whole new group people working to keep the world safe from those that wish to do human's harm or exploit them.

Hearne does an amazing job of bringing the Scots language to life on paper and deliver a fun, entertaining read while filling in many of the backstories and world building needed in a first book in series. While the pacing occasio0nally dragged, I still can't wait for the next book in the series. 

Having just finished reading, I was able to get my hands on the audio version narrated by Luke Daniels and I've only listened to a little bit of it but if you can get the audio DO IT! The accents! The text to voice narration and the Scots brogue! LOVE it and I only just started.

I received a free copy of this book through Booksprout, am voluntarily leaving a review. If you like my reviews I hope you will follow my blog.

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It had raisins in it, so that was bloody daft, as raisins are ill-omened abominations and he should have known better.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne was a damn delight! The characters were well-developed and had some of the best personalities. It's been ages since a book made me laugh this much! Al is in his 60's and I absolutely adored him, Buck Foi is my new favorite hobgoblin, and Nadia is someone I want to be besties with (she's hilarious and can kick some serious ass). The world-building was complex without being confusing, and I cannot wait to dive back into this series in the future. Thank you, Kevin Hearne for delivering an epic story with dirty jokes, unrepentant magical creatures, and weird wizard vans. ;)

I also enjoyed the author's not-so-subtle references to the current world we live in, regarding things like phones and politics. They were relevant without feeling forced. A few examples:

1) "How much magic and wonder was missed while people were distracted by something flickering on their screens?"
2) "Most of the time such news just bounced off them, the way horrific shite about a candidate bounces off a party’s faithful because they can’t face the fact that they voted for a monster and they may in fact be monsters themselves. Easier to just deny it all, call it fake news. No introspection required."

I thought the mystery was interesting, if a bit underwhelming (just the teeniest tiniest bit). It didn't take long for Al to discover who was likely behind the fae trafficking, but it did take him a while to unravel the messy situation. He had to travel and hunt down specific people, do a lot of investigating (while drinking quality beer, whisky, and gin), and solve a problem without actually solving it. It was like putting a band aid on a broken leg, so maybe the problem will be revisited in the future. I know there wasn't much he could've done against his potential adversary, but I wish there had been more conflict on the fey side of things.

I loved the Avatar: The Last Airbender and Lord of the Rings references, and how excited Buck was when he discovered them for the first time. Nadia makes a comparison towards the end that had me laughing despite the seriousness of their situation.

The language was a bit tricky for me even with the author's help at the start. Hearne tries to explain how certain words are pronounced (in a very humorous way), but it wasn't always easy for me to remember them as I was reading, and I didn't want to keep dragging my e-ARC back to the beginning. I think Ink & Sigil would make one hell of an audiobook though! I know I butchered a lot of the words, but a narrator would likely do a much better job (therefore increasing a person's overall enjoyment of the story). Unless you're already familiar with a Weegie accent!

Illegal pit fights, trolls, sigils - - there's no shortage of fun and entertaining material in this book! I'm very interested in Al's particular curse(s) and really wanted more information on their origins before the book's conclusion. Unfortunately, we just learn a little more about what they do instead of who actually put them there or why. I have a feeling it will be addressed later on down the road, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that particular thread plays out (especially now that Buck's life is intertwined with Al's, and I'm already super attached to the thieving trickster).

If you're looking for something new to read, Ink & Sigil was a blast and a half! Mad scientists, secret government facilities, modified fey, and a fantastic fantasy with no romance whatsoever (looking at you, Chuckles), this book is easily a new favorite! I'm happy I had an opportunity to read it. (★★★★⋆)

Additional quotes I liked:
1) "Live long enough and people from your past will echo, calling back to you years after they have left you behind."
2) "Five stars for defying expectations and coming out swinging with the batshite.”
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4.0 / 5 ✪

Al MacBharrais is a man blessed. A Scottish widower in his sixties, he runs a legitimate print shop in Glasgow. He is also a sigil agent for Brighid—the First of the Fae—he uses magical inks in order to create and employ powerful sigils that can affect both the mortal and supernatural worlds. He uses these sigils to police the Fae that enter our realm illegally, protecting the world from those rogues who would do it wrong. In addition to this rather pedantic craft, he is also endowed with an extraordinary mustache, which he waxes daily and trims with utmost care.

But Al is also a man cursed. He suffers from a mysterious anathema: anyone who is exposed to his voice for even a few days will grow to hate him. This makes his voice a rare treat—one that he barely hears himself. Al communicates mainly through text-to-speech apps so that his few friends and colleagues don’t come to despise him.

We join MacBharrais’s story already in progress. When his apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead—the seventh such of Al’s apprentices to have kicked the bucket—having choked on a raisin scone, Al comes to learn that the wee lad had something of a secret life he’d hidden from his master. A life… of crime.

In fact, Gordie was trafficking Fae; luring them from the realms and then trapping and selling them to a mysterious third party. Which Al finds out as he arrives at Gordie’s flat to find a wee pink hobgoblin in a not-pink cage. One who is royally pissed at being locked up, and not as disappointed in Gordie’s somewhat untimely demise.

This particular hob—who goes by the name “Buck Foi” (yes, really)—will come in handy if Al is to solve the mystery of the Fae trafficking ring which will take him from Scotland’s magical underworld to the Scottish Highlands and beyond. Also involved are some ghastly hounds, a goth battle seer, and more than a few cool sigils of power. It’s sure to be a fun ride.

And it was a fun ride, more or less. I was never a huge fan of Atticus O’Sullivan (Hearne’s most famous character), the Iron Druid. Don’t think I even made it halfway through the first book before I DNFed it. So… less than a huge fan. Al MacBharrais by contrast is a lovely old character. A Scottish gentleman in his mid-sixties, Al is a breath of fresh air to the Urban Fantasy genre. Though the druid was technically older, he was an immortal who was forever young. Most protagonists in Urban Fantasy seem to either be not strictly mortal, or young. Al, by contrast, is mortal, over the hill, and not as annoying (as Atticus, at least). His communication through a text-to-speech app was also an interesting twist, one that worked nicely in the story. His cast of friends and allies were mostly entertaining and interesting—especially Nadia (his assistant, or his manager, sometimes both)—though I confess I grew a bit tired of the wee pink hob by the end.

Like most intro Urban Fantasies, Ink & Sigil has trouble sticking strictly to the story, and occasionally gets distracted by pushing pieces of lore directly related to the characters. Flashbacks and whatnot. Instead of boring us with these too early on, Hearne waits borderline too late, when we’re invested in the story before springing them. This did not help the story’s pacing, but I guess it was an attempt to get the reader to care more about the spin-off characters. An attempt that was… so-so effective. Some of the flashbacks I liked, one I hated. It didn’t come at the right time, in my opinion, but maybe the book was too short for the flashbacks to come any sooner. Nothing ruined, here. More of a typical UF wandering debut.

Ink & Sigil is a charming spin-off, set in the world of the Iron Druid. If you’re fresh from that series, or in search of a new one, you could do much worse than giving Al MacBharrais a try. I’d certainly recommend it.


I was never a fan of the Iron Druid. After I tried and failed to get through Hounded three times—I read Ink & Sigil in under a week, with hardly any objections. Al MacBharrais is not your typical Urban Fantasy lead. He’s in his sixties, mortal, both blessed and cursed, and in possession of just the most lovely mustache. While he does share a world with the Iron Druid, the two could not be more different. I had few issues with the text—none of which were deal-breakers—and am glad to announce that the positives easily outweigh any negatives. In fact, would happily read a sequel. Looking forward to one, even. Furthermore, no prior knowledge of Hearne’s books is needed, as I had no problem understanding things. Recommended!
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I have been a huge fan of Kevin Hearne for many years.  I love the Tales of Pell series (his collaboration with author Delilah S. Dawson), and I have read five of The Iron Druid series.  Ink & Sigil, takes place in the same universe as The Iron Druid, but follows a completely new set of characters.  Set in historic Glasgow, this book has a fun cast of characters, and a story that was highly entertaining.

What I Liked:


Although I have been to Scotland (many years ago), I have not visited Glasgow.  But the author paints such a vivid picture of the city, that I feel like I have been there.  He mentions not only historic places, but bars, libraries and scenery that make me want to visit this wonderful place.


Aside from the real-life setting, the world of Ink & Sigil is steeped in the magical world, and mythology of the Fae.  There are many magical creatures, and planes of existence that are explained.  But you don't need to have read any of the Iron Druid books to understand the rules of this universe.  This is a self-contained series, so it's quite accessible.


Al is a really likable, human character.  Unlike the Iron Druid, he is not immortal, and I love that he is on the older side.  He has seen a lot of life, but still has much to contribute to the world.  He is also complicated.  I like that he wasn't perfect.  But he did (mostly) try to do the right thing.

Al's sidekick is a hobgoblin named Buck.  I enjoyed how they got to know each other, with both characters testing each other's mettle.  Buck is mischievous and Al must keep a careful eye on him.  Even with Al's diligence, Buck manages to find ways to mess with Al.  This was super fun and entertaining.

I also enjoyed the character of Nadia.  She is many things (including being Al's accountant),  but most importantly, she is Al's Battle Seer.  I love how no-nonsense she is, and that she has a girlfriend.  This allows a friendship to grow between Al and Nadia, without the complications of a possible romance.  


The story is basically a mystery:  when Al's apprentice Gordie dies suddenly, he finds out that Gordie has been selling magical creatures.  Why was he doing this, and who was buying them?  I loved the parallels made between the book's plot, and the plight of immigrants caught up in real-life human trafficking. I enjoy how a book can bring up real-life issues using fantasy to illustrate social ills.  Strangely, using magical creatures as stand-ins for immigrants actually makes the point that people who are tricked into slavery are worthy of dignity and respect.  If we can develop sympathy for hobgoblins, we can certainly see immigrants as people.
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First of all, I'm a big fan of Kevin Hearne and especially the Iron Druid world. This new book is set in the same world as the Iron Druid books and I loved this fresh new spin on the world. We follow Aloysius "Al" MacBharrais, who is a cursed sigil agent. Al's apprentices unfortunately keep ending up dead. His most recent apprentice turns up dead after choking on a raisin scone and Al finds more than he was bargaining for when he shows up to do his own investigation. Not only does Al find a caged pink hobgoblin, but also several other signs that show that he had no idea what his apprentice had been tangled up in. 

This book was action-packed with lots of magic and humor. I love Kevin Hearne's ability to add humor into his books and this was more of the same while also managing to be completely different. While this book is set in the same world a The Iron Druid Chronicles, Ink & Sigil stands up well on its own. I loved Al and all of the characters in this book. I also loved seeing more of the magical creatures in this book that hadn't been as explored in The Iron Druid Chronicles. The Scottish setting and dialogue was also very enjoyable to me and I appreciated that Kevin Hearne added a pronunciation guide in the beginning, very helpful. 

Whether you are already a hardcore fan of The Iron Druid Chronicles or if this is your first Kevin Hearne book, I recommend this snarky, fun, and magical new novel. This was so fun and I can't wait until this series continues.
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Coming into this as a fan of Kevin Hearne's wildly popular Iron Druid series I was not disappointed! 

It retains the wit and comedy I love about Kevin's writing while standing on it's own as something unique and intriguing. As soon as I read the description I knew this was going to be a story with an interesting twist.

I highly recommend this wonderful and imaginative book!
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Booklist  (July 2020 issue) 
INK & SIGIL by Kevin Hearn 
Aug. 2020. 336p. Del Rey, $28 (9781984821256).

Hearne kicks off a delightful spin-off of his Iron Druid series (Hounded, 2011), set in the colorful sphere of Glasgow. Aloysius MacBharrais (just call him Al) is having a bad day. He just lost his seventh apprentice due to the man accidentally choking on a raisin-infested scone. The world sees Al as the proprietor of a printing establishment, but in reality he is a sigil agent, one of only five in the world. A sigil agent’s job is to keep humans and the Fae apart by writing and enforcing magical contracts using carefully prepared inks to craft symbols infused with power. But it appears his apprentice has been trafficking in unsuspecting Fae and selling them to unscrupulous human buyers for nefarious purposes. But who tricked the Fae into coming to the human realm in the first place? A god may be involved, which means Al must be incredibly careful if he wishes to stay alive. Add a razor-wielding office manager, a mischievous hobgoblin sidekick, nosy police detectives, life-threatening curses, and a charming dose of Scots language, and you have a terrific kick-off of a new, action-packed, enchantingly fun series.

—  Lucy Lockley
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I have not read nearly enough books by Kevin Hearne, but I will definitely be rectifying that situation shortly. I first read Hounded (Iron Druid Chronicles) many years ago after it first came out and I absolutely loved it, but for one reason or another never had a chance to finish the rest of the series. I was fortunate to get my hands on an early review copy of Ink & Sigil, which happens to be in the Iron Druid universe and has a quick nod to Atticus and Oberon, but otherwise holds its own quite nicely. I was drawn in from the first word. This book had awesome action, an intriguing plot, a mystery that will hopefully be solved as the series progresses, and most importantly amazingly nutty characters. I haven't laughed that long at a book in a long time! Can't wait for more.
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This book is well written, and I liked the characters. I wasn't much for the dialect spellings and kept tripping over them while reading. It made it easy to figure out the accent of the characters, but there were a lot of dialect spellings. It may have been easier to read if there were fewer of the dialect spellings. The progress of the mystery felt slow, and overall I liked the Iron Druid series more than this one.
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I read this book early thanks to #NetGalley and #DelRay

Another fantastic book by Kevin Hearne! I loved that this book is in the same world as The Iron Druid Chronicles! The magic system is really cool and had me looking up old ink recipes. Al's curse also makes for some really funny and heartfelt scenes.  I also, can't wait for my husband to get the audio book, so I can listen to Luke Daniels read it.
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A delightful, stand-alone book and introduction to a whimsically wonderful system of magic, complete with supernatural beings and Glaswegian (that’s Glasgow-ian) accent. Not to mention its pervasive sense of raunchy humor. Before getting started, the author provides an introduction with pronunciation and dialect guide. I found the language hilarious, never mind the characters and plot, because when I moved to this (remote, forested) area, there was a pub a few miles out of town. The White Cockade (check your history for the meaning) was owned and bartended by a Glasgow émigré with an accent roughly equivalent to talking around bits of glass. The only way to understand him was to turn off the front part of your brain and let the words seep in through the back of your skull. Several minutes later, all would be made clear. Which resulted in interesting timing of conversation. Nice guy, though. Great cook of pub food.

So here I am in a first-person Glaswegian dialect narration, whooping with laughter and in general enjoying the story immensely. That’s pretty much all you need to know, other than there’s a reason why the Sigil Master’s apprentices keep dying of such causes as eating scones with raisins. To make matters worse, the above-mentioned Sigil Master has been cursed in such a way that if he speaks directly to a person long enough, they are seized by a sudden and violent hatred of him, no matter how loving or trusting their previous relationship was.  Although Ink and Sigil swept through a page-turning climax to a most satisfying ending, I hope to see more of its characters.
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I was a fan of this author’s Druid Chronicles, so I was eager to dive into this one to see what the author had come up with. What he came up with was an original Sigil wizard, in his sixties mind you, who has been cursed for people to start hating him with each word he speaks. This was fascinating and opened up many thought tangents on my end. The story didn’t take long to get going, and we jumped pretty much right into the story. I was a little worried when there was a pronunciation guide at the beginning, but it surprised me that the accent didn’t really bother me, and it was easy to understand. This latest series-starter was well-written and full of humor just like we’ve come to expect from this author. As a side note, you don’t need to have read the Druid Chronicles to read this one; they are separate but in the same universe. Recommend. I was provided a complimentary copy which I voluntarily reviewed.
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I had no idea that this was a spin-off series from the Iron Druid Chronicles until after I started researching the book a little more. After reading this book, I think I’ll have to invest some time into the Iron Druid Chronicles after this one.

This is a really fun magical book that has a ton of action and witty characters. I really enjoyed the vast personality that Hearne created within this book. I also completely loved the alcoholic beverages I learned about. I mean I did not know Scotland produced a lot of Gin. Thankfully I had a Scotch from the Highlands to sip on while reading this, that one of my good friends picked up for me last year.

Ink & Sigil, follows Al MacBharrais, one of only five Sigil Agents in the human world. With a amazing white moustache and a preference for great spirits, he’s in charge of making sure non-humans don’t make a mess of the human world. He uses his ‘magic’ skills or Sigils to give him enough power to fight against Faes who would otherwise wreck havoc. One caveat is that Al has been cursed where anyone who hears him talking ends up hating him. He needs to figure out how to reverse the curse but until then he uses a speech app to talk safely.

Because of this curse, Al has just lost his seventh apprentice Gordie. After his death, Al uncovers Gordie’s double life, of capturing Fae and selling them to an unknown source. In the process Al befriends a pink hobglobin and hilarity ensures.

It was a little difficult to get use to the Scottish dialogue but once I got into the flow, the language fit perfectly with the story.

This book is extremely imaginative and filled with adventure. I was really hoping to see when the second book was coming out but I couldn’t even find a tentative date for it, which is super sad. I super enjoyed this book! The cover is gorgeous, the book is fun, and

It’s unique, moving and enjoyable reading with so many eccentric characters and I always admire Kevin Hearne’s imagination to open us new and dazzling universes’ doors and enjoy our adventurous ride with him!

I had some hard time to decipher the dialogues between Scottish men so it slowed down my pace just a little bit to search for true meanings of their words but overall it was remarkably interesting and intriguing brand new series and I’m in to read more! 

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on Ink & Sigil. For more of my reviews head to or my Instagram @speakingof_books. Huge thank you to Del Rey Books for my advanced copy.
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In Kevin Hearne’s latest urban fantasy, Al MacBharrais is blessed and cursed. He’s blessed with the rare ability to make sigils, and he’s cursed so that whoever hears his voice begins to develop an intense hatred for him. You can imagine how badly this affects his personal life. However, Al’s life is about to get worse as his apprentices start mysteriously dying in freak accidents, and as he begins to investigate their deaths, he uncovers a shady magical creature trafficking scheme.

Overall, I loved the Celtic mythology influences and the unique hard magic system. It was fun to see Al creatively work around his curse, and of course, I adored Nadia, the psychic goth lesbian who kicks butt. Literally. 

Along with the Scottish setting, the writing is very tongue and cheek and humorous … sometimes to its own detriment. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to feel the emotional stakes of him investigating the deaths of his apprentices. I feel this boils down to an issue of tonal balance. However, at one point, I was taken out of left field when Al mentions his diseased wife who he would travel to the Underworld for like Orpheus to get her back. That connection I did feel and that would have been a more compelling story for me, so as a series, I hope that storyline is explored and developed later down the road. 

In a nutshell, the plot and most of the characters I wasn’t as invested in, but the worldbuilding and magic system are well-crafted.
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It was a lot of fun to read this book and I hope this is the sort in a long series.
I laughed a lot, liked the well written characters (my favorite is the hobgoblin) and I think that the curse that force the MC to use the phone to talk is a strike of genius.
I can't wait to meet again this characters.
I strongly recommend it.
I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
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Another amazing story from Kevin Hearne. I was so excited to return to the Iron Druid universe and I loved every second of this. Al is a dynamic character and he pushed the plot to it limit. There was magic and mayhem - I wouldn't have settled for any less - but there was also a cool mystery. I thought Al's curses were pretty original and that really started the story off well. It was nice to learn even more about the Iron Druid universe while also getting to know these new characters.
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I definitely enjoyed this spin-off from The Iron Druid Chronicles. Although it helps to be familiar with the series, you don’t really need to know it to appreciate this one. I had a lot of fun reading this one (despite some serious moments & troubles for the main character). Highly recommended!
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Aloysius MacBharrais (great name!) is a Sigil agent with a battle seer as a CMA office manager named Nadia. You will have to read about her and her bad assery.  Too much to go into in a review but wizard van and cheese fondue.  
We open on Al discovering his apprentice dead from a raisin scone (I take offense I like raisin pastries) and he uncovers a bunch of illegal dealings that were going on behind his back. 
In the process of finding out who was in charge we go on a grand adventure full of ghost dogs, tricky hobgoblins, bean sidhes, and many other creatures including Americans!
Also, I want to add Al who is in his 60's btw seems like hes a good boss and person. Not many men that age would be cool with a wizard van. 

I would love some of these sigils! They are used for all sorts of purposes like gaining strength, healing, agility, etc. I would just like some put in an envelope maybe the Sigil of restful sleep for my 6 yo who keeps me up every night. 

I love Irish, Scottish and English lore centered around Druid and Fae story telling.  And the recipes of inks and sigils and magical whimsical elements. I want to go hunt ingredients and meet interesting characters. 

I loved that the writing was in the accents they spoke. It helped me try to test out my linguistics and speech patterns in Scottish, I'm still shite but that's fine.

I haven't read the other Druid Chronicles books and this is the start of a new series. I didn't feel lost or like I needed to catch up.

I recommend for those that love fantasy, fae, adventure, intrigue, and cool guys.
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With his newest book, Ink & Sigil, NYT bestselling author Kevin Hearne brings his unique flavor of storytelling and wicked sense of humor to a familiar world - his version of Earth from the Iron Druid Chronicles. Readers don’t have to be acquainted with his previous books to delve into this one; it’s a fresh story from a different point-of-view.

Al MacBharrais is an elderly Scotsman serving as a sigil agent for the First of the Fae, while training an apprentice to carry on after he retires. The death of that apprentice uncovers a sinister plot, and Al gathers a cast of unusual and talented people to hunt down the perpetrators.

Hearne throws Fae creatures into Modern Day Scotland and sprinkles in some foul language, impish humor, and current events. It’s an absolutely delightful read. I devoured this book in less than a day and I hope to see more books featuring Al in the future.
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