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Paper & Blood

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Member Reviews

I found this to be an enjoyable read, keeping me on my toes throughout.  The storyline was written well and flowed seamlessly. I look forward to reading more by this author!
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This series was really fun! I enjoyed the characters and the humor, and even though I haven't read any of the other books set in this world, I was never confused.
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The review of Paper & Blood is in the November 2021 issue of SFRevu and is exclusive to them until December 1st, 2021.  You may read the review using this link:
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this was a great entry in the Ink & Sigil series, it was what I wanted from the authors previous work. The plot was great and I enjoyed reading this.
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Paper & Blood is the second installment of Kevin Hearne's spin off series set in the same world as the Iron Druid. I have not read the Iron Druid series, but as a lover of inks and fountain pens, I had greatly enjoyed Ink & Sigil where were were first introduced to our protagonist Al MacBharrais and his circle of friends and associates.

As a voracious reader of urban fantasy novels, MacBharrais stands out for being quite unique. He's not a young upstart who's a whiz at his craft but still has much to learn; rather, he's an wise, older master practitioner of his craft with decades of experience. I quite the characters in this series, and I felt they were more richly portrayed in this work then in the prior book. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like their presences in the book were well incorporated; characters regularly appeared/reappeared fortuitously and abruptly, almost like actors walking on and off a set sitcom-style, waving at the audience as they do so. This was in part due to the pacing of the book, which spent most of the page count introducing characters and/or having individual. characters telling individual stories. I quite enjoyed these vignettes, but they sapped the energy, drive, and importance of the main plot. Note: while the Iron Druid had only a brief cameo in the prior book, this book functions as more of a direct tie-in: he features quite prominently in this book. That said, I did not feel like the book was confusing for having not read the other series, but be warned that there may be some large spoilers for Iron Druid series. 

In general, I found this book a fun read, if a little unsatisfying in the execution and resolution of the main plot. I enjoyed my time with the characters, and I expect I will be picking up the next installment.
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Thanks Netgalley for this copy of Paper and Blood!

Ink and Sigil was my introduction to the world of the Iron Druid and I was not disapointed. It made me an instant fan! Kevin Hearnes brilliant characters and endless imagination, not to mention his cleverness for storytelling are stars in his latest book Paper and Blood! I was enthralled and submersed from beginning to end and can not help but wait in anticipation for what he has coming next.
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This series is so fun, I’m so glad I randomly decided to give it a shot last year. It’s modern and magical and fun and hits my sense of humor exactly. I love the nods to beer lovers!

I didn’t realize until this book that it’s set in the world of Hearne’s earlier series (silly me) and I feel like, because I had such a blast with this book and the first one, I’m obviously going to have to go back and read his entire catalog now ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
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Very much in the vein of the previous book, but expanding the universe and including more characters and settings from his Iron Druid series. I'm glad I'd read the first several of those before picking up Paper & Blood, because I'm certain I would have found my background information lacking, where I didn't feel that need for the first one. Fun, emotional, and I'm looking forward to more in this series.
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A very proper Scottish sexagenarian (well, if by “proper” one means at some point in time around the early-to-mid-twentieth-century), who favors an old-fashioned suit, hat, and cane, sports an impressive moustache, and is well-schooled in a field of magical arts known as sigil-making [more on that later]. Goes by the rather-impressive moniker, Al MacBharrais.

A wee hob (as in “hobgoblin”), who might only be taken for a (very) sunburned “little person” by someone who’d had a few too many tipples o’ the Scotch (or Irish, or really, too many tipples of anything), is overly-fond of all mischief-making (including, sadly, larceny), loves whiskey (and loves salsa, even more), and has a helpful (if uncanny) ability to sort of “poof” from one place to another, for brief periods of time. That would be Al’s assistant, Buck Foi [and you’ll need to swap a couple of letters and say it out loud to catch the self-named hob’s bit of tomfoolery, there].

A fabulously-tatted, tough-as-nails pugilist-cum-accountant (who is also sorta something else… although the precise nature of that is a bit in the air), and drives a decked-out wizard van. She’s Nadia.

And, finally [really, isn’t that enough, for now?], a pleasantly-prim, middle-aged manager who somehow schedules Al’s workload, puts up with Buck’s hijinks, and always produces coffees and danishes at the exact right moment. We know her as “Gladys-Who-Has-Seen-Some-Shite” [I kid you not].

Throw ‘em all together and what do you have? The second outing in Kevin Hearne’s nifty little “Ink & Sigil” series, [the somewhat-ominously-titled] Paper & Blood. [And by the way, if you haven’t already read the first in the series, please check out the review for Ink & Sigil, here.]

When Al receives an urgent communique from one of his fellow sigil-maker’s apprentices, alerting him to the fact that her mentor has gone missing in Australia—and his subsequent messages to the other three sigil masters in their small global group determines that a similar fate has also befallen one of them (in a failed attempt to track down the first missing maker, no less)—he grabs Buck, leaves business in the capable hands of Nadia and Gladys(-who-has…), and arranges for a fairy-aided trip Down Under. 

Once there—and once armed with a few weapons (plenty of the aforementioned sigils, which help protect regular humans, such as Al, from all sorts of fae spells and powerful creatures who seek to do him harm) and a kitted-out wizard van (courtesy of Buck, of course) for navigating the outback—the intrepid duo pick up the scared apprentice and set out for parts wild. Which, as fate would have it, is when things get really, truly, actually wild.

It isn’t their run-of-the-mill monster meanies, this time; some… thing, insanely-powerful, has somehow cobbled together the craziest and most bloodthirsty creatures—things straight out of a child’s most-terrifying nightmares—whose sole purposes seem to be, to kill every single human in their paths (including several hapless hikers). 

Luckily [or not?], an old acquaintance of Al’s shows up in the midst of all the mayhem… none other than the fearsome Iron Druid, Atticus O’Sullivan [who apparently features in earlier works by the author], himself, along with his “good dugs” [that’s “good dogs” for those of us not Scottish], the druid-worthy (and telepathic!) hounds, Oberon and Starbuck, to help out.

Will this be the one thing to bring down the centuries-old druid… not to mention, Al, Buck, and… well, a few other surprise visitors they pick up along the way? Or will the motley-but-scrappy little group of would-be heroes be able to put aside their own differences and histories long enough to battle the purest evil seen on earth in… basically ever?

Paper & Blood is, first off, deliciously-imaginative and chuckle-out-loud funny. Al and Buck’s relationship (not to mention Buck and Nadia’s, or Al and Gladys’s, among others) is a real hoot, and continues to provide some genuine comedic gold. There's a good bit more world building here, too, which gives the story, and the world these characters inhabit, greater depth.

Then there’s the care that Hearne takes to preface each book with a very helpful pronunciations-and-meanings guide, which is not only useful, but makes reading that much more fun. [Yes, it takes me longer to read these books, because I’m actually stopping and mentally saying the words correctly… but I promise, if you’re not Scottish—and really, how many of us can say we are?—doing so adds immeasurably to the experience.]

If I had to nit-pick, though, I can do that easily enough, too. Paper & Blood uses storytelling as a plot device—meaning, the characters tell stories to the others—which, frankly, drag on. And on. (And onnnnnnn.) Whenever one of them told another story, I usually wound up skimming those passages (after realizing the point was going to be a very long time in coming). It isn’t that the stories aren’t interesting, or that they fail to add to the theme of the book, because they are, and they do; the problem is that they needed to be whittled down. [And suddenly, I’m realizing how probably Every. Single. One. of my friends probably feels when I’m telling a story… Yikes.]

That one minor issue aside, though, I found Paper & Blood to be a very good entry in a series that delivers something really fresh, fun, and fantastic in the urban fantasy realm… and I can hardly wait to see what Al, Buck, et al, get up to next.
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A really wonderful addition to the series, I enjoyed seeing the world through Al's eyes (he wasn't 'Woke' he was aware). I love every visit to the Iron Druid universe, funny, insightful, and highly entertaining.
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Paper and Blood is the next chapter for Al MacBharrais and his band of merry men. When he gets reports of Sigil agents going missing and bodies begin to pile up will Al be able to solve what is causing the deaths? And in doing so, will he be able to figure out how to undo the curses places upon himself?

I really enjoyed Ink & Sigil. It was funny, quirky, and had a great story. The characters were all each more fantastic then the last and the world was a pleasure to submerge myself in. Paper & Blood is absolutely nothing like Ink & Sigil. It has it's funny moments, but it almost just feels like the entire book was written how you would imagine the Lord of the Rings would go if it was just what Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli talked about while they walked for days. No real plot to speak of, just random stories told by random people and random times. Even the visit from the all powerful Iron Druid was lost on me as I didn't read that series before reading these. It seems the magic of Ink & Sigil has dries up for this reader and I will not be looking for the next in the series.

Two stars from me as I didn't absolutely hate it and there wasn't anything off putting to make me not like it, other than the lack of plot. Recommended for those 12+ who have read The Iron Druid series and don't mind alot of random filler.
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Al is back with all of his friends plus some new ones. While there is plenty of tension and danger there is still a big amount of laughter. Some characters just stay true to form while others are a little bite off center. A old favorite joints Al. Your. guess as to who. Entertaining but Al's biggest problem is still not solved.
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I really enjoyed the first book in this series and the second one continued along on the same vein! Al MacBharrais is still capable to handle anything (as long as he has a sigil of brawn or agility and his trusty iron tipped cane), despite the two curses hanging over him.  There is lots of fun with Buck Foi and lots of people to help him find the other missing sigil agents (Nadia is so awesome!). I also really liked the addition of Connor as now he is called, the Iron Druid. And all that firepower is needed to find out what happened in the wilds of Australia. 

Despite his age (though it is cool that the main character is not a strapping young hero), Al is still learning and growing and I can't wait to see what further adventures are in store for him as a double cursed sigil agent.
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** I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.  **

I love this series so much.  The characters are so entertaining and the story jumps off the page.  The recap & pronunciation guide in the beginning make it even better.
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My thanks to NetGalley for making an eARC of this book available to me.

Another delightful book from Kevin Hearne, this one brings back a number of characters from the Iron Druid books to help Al and Buck figure out why the other sigil agents are disappearing, and then how to save them.  We also get to know a bit more about Al's employees, Nadia and Gladys, with hints of more to come.  Looking forward to the next book in this fun series, and hopefully having Al discovering who has cursed him, why they've cursed him, and how to remove the curses.
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Paper & Blood (Ink & Sigil #2) Kevin Hearne is a great follow up to Ink & Sigil. It's such a fun little spin off to The Iron Druid Chronicles which is one of my favorite urban fantasy series. It was great to see Al and his ragtag gang again. Let me just say that the sense of humor in this was just right. There are quite a few laugh out loud moments. To be honest, my favorite parts were getting to see Atticus (aka Connor) again. Atticus, Oberon, and Starbuck just made my day. I can't wait to see more from Kevin Hearne in the future.
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Kevin Hearne is always an instant win for me, so I was so excited to dive into Paper & Blood! We join sigil agent, Al MacBharrais and his ragtag team as they try and find out what is happening to his fellow sigil agents. This takes us to Australia, where we also meet some old friends. The Iron Druid himself along with his dogs arrive to help Al and his team. Once they arrive in Australia, they start running into crazy hybrid monsters that are none to happy to see them. Things just keep getting harder and weirder as the group pushes on. 

We also have some fun character development with all of our crazy crew which I enjoyed a lot, especially Glayds Who Has Seen Some Shite. Is there more to her than being Canadian and Al's secretary? Al is definitely curious! I was so happy to be back among "friends" in the Iron Druid World. This was a fun adventure and I can't wait until the next book in the series. These books never disappoint!
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Paper & Blood
August 23, 2021
Book Review

Paper & Blood
Kevin Hearne
reviewed by Lou Jacobs | Goodreads

What we have here is a mystery cleverly tucked into a humorous fantasy mystery. Technically it is the second in a series—designated as Ink & Sigil #2—however it certainly can be enjoyed and devoured as a standalone.

Hearne seamlessly weaves the necessary backstory into the beginning of the book. Thank the Gods! and Kevin Hearne. Another chance to re-enter the delightful world of the Iron Druid—much to the delight of his legion of fans. This time through the eyes and action of the beguiling Al MacBharrais ( Mac Vare Ish), one of five Sigil Agents in the world, with his territory being Scotland and Europe. His job is to monitor and control visitation of spirits, creatures, and deities from the multiple other planes and pantheons. … especially the various creatures of the Fae. He not only makes and interprets magical contracts, but is able to create special effects and actions through the rendering on Ink “Sigils.”

He handcrafts the inks from rare ingredients which instill the latent magic. The Sigils manipulate one’s visual apparatus, sort of hacking the brain. For example: Sigil of Porous Mind leeches away the target’s usual priorities and makes one open to suggestion with the secondary effect of difficulty remembering what happens in the next few minutes. MacBharrais crafts the Sigils on small placards and once revealed to the eyes of the target, result in the desired “beneficial” effect. These are used only to accomplish good for the citizens of earth and protect against the denizens of beings from other planes. … especially rogue elements of the Fae.

Al is comfortably entrenched in his Glasgow shop when he receives a phone call from Chen Ya-ping, an apprentice of the sigil agent, Shu-hua, whose territory is Australia. Not only has her master “gone missing,” but also another sigil agent, Mei-ling and her apprentice have disappeared. Apparently, she actually contacted Mei-ling first, since her territory of Taipei was much closer. Both sigil agents simultaneously experienced the “twinges” which amounts to a sudden chill along your spine, accompanied by the sensation someone is screaming in one of your ears. This usually occurs when an uninvited rogue Fae or even God has crossed over into the earth plane. This disturbing signal was coming from the Dandenong Ranges, in the Australian bush. Both agents went to investigate without any further contact from either. What powerful being has tripped the wards of our plane and more importantly: Why? With popular culture embracing “science,” most of humanity dismisses the mystical and magic. Such a terrible mistake to be made, with the elaborate universe created in the mind of Kevin Hearne.

Hearne does it again! He weaves a complex narrative filled with magic, wit and whimsy and suspense that leads one down a twisted and exciting pathway filled with creatures from unearthly planes. His masterful world building is astounding . Al and his crew will battle chimeric creatures, composed of body parts of several animals. Their first encounter is an engagement with a creature with the head of a Komodo dragon, forelegs of a praying mantis, fused onto a chassis of a giant tarantula, except the abdomen is covered with the armor of a tortoiseshell. Thankfully Al is accompanied by the Iron Druid himself, along with his two “dugs” —Oberon the Irish Wolfhound and Starbuck the Boston Terrier—both who can understand language and are fierce warriors in their own right.

A number of formidable associates reprise their more than supporting roles. Among his eccentric and wacky entourage are his whisky-loving hobgoblin, Buck Foi (who is also wise and talented) and his office manager and bodyguard, Nadia, who happens to be a “battle seer” and usually sheaths herself in a symphony of black. Black lipstick and nail polish accompanies her spiked mohawk, along with her studded choker and belt and black leather corset and boots. And, we can’t forget his Canadian receptionist, Gladys Who Has Seen Some Shite, who certainly is more than she seems. One can never get enough of the over-the-top and ridiculous humor, as our bizarre crew go into battle to save the missing sigil agents. The action and battle scenes are surreal.

Thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey books for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review of this delightful and hilarious gem.
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I first became aware of author Kevin Hearne from the Iron Druid novels.  I've read them all, so I was really happy that Hearne decided to keep the party going by starting a whole new series set in the same universe.  Ink & Sigil introduced us to Al MacBharrais, a Sigil Agent .  Since there's only one Druid left on Earth, a Sigil agent does some of the work the druids used to do.  

Although this is definitely still Al's story, Atticus (along with his dogs Oberon and Starbuck) is also in this novel.  Besides this, we learn much more about Al, his hobgoblin sidekick Buck Foi, and several other characters.  This was a a fun novel with plenty of action and humor.  I loved it.

What I Liked:

Cross Over with The Iron Druid:
I really enjoyed The Iron Druid series, so it was a real treat to have Atticus (and his dogs) back in a novel.  We learn much more about how Atticus is doing since losing his arm.  As usual, Atticus does something that has unintended consequences, which the Sigil Agents must deal with.  I liked that Al and Atticus see each other as equals, with each one having their own strengths.  There is also another character from The Iron Druid who makes an appearance.  I won't spoil it for you, but it's really cool to see this person again.

We learn much more about Al and his life prior to becoming a Sigil Agent.  Al has had one tragedy after another, and he struggles not to be bitter about all that he has lost.  This all stems from someone putting a curse on Al, years ago.  He doesn't know who did this, or why.  But he's been told the only way to break the curse is to work out whatever problem lead to it, or to kill whoever cursed him.  On the one hand, he doesn't like the idea of killing anyone.  But can he live with himself if he loses Buck to the curse, as well?

We also get a deeper understanding of Atticus, or Conner as he is now knows as.  In the Iron Druid series, Atticus/Conner is very much a one with Nature sort of fellow.  His main job as a Druid is to keep the Earth in balance.  But he often winds up fighting and killing others.  When he loses his arm, he firmly believes that there must be a way to get it back.  After all, what's the use of having all that magical power if he can't magically regain a lost limb?  This story has him rethinking that plan.

We also learn more about some supporting characters who I can see will play bigger roles in upcoming books.  There's Nadia, who seems to have a lot of power for someone who's an accountant, and Gladys who's-seen-some-shite, Al's receptionist. Why does everyone know who Gladys is?  And why are they being so differential to her?  I know once you learn more about these people you will be eager to have them featured prominently in the next novel.

There are several Sigil Agents strewn about the world.  When several of them go missing, it's up to Al and Buck to discover what happened and put things to right again.  And where do the pari go to fix this mess?  Australia!  It's a really smart move for the author to change the scenery a bit with this next book.  There's plenty about Australia, with its vast landscapes and wonderful people, to make this a great setting for an adventure.  

Al and Buck must discover what has killed several hikers in a National Park, and if it will lead them to the other missing Sigil Agents.  This almost becomes something of a video game, where the group must avoid obstacles and traps, as they encounter a variety of monsters.  The traps become more elaborate as the story continues.  All of which will lead to a final showdown with a "Big Boss" type of villain at the end.
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I really enjoyed this book! I had originally planned to read an ebook copy of this book but I realized that I just had to experience the audiobook first. It was fun to slip back inside its world and I absolutely loved the fact that we are treated with a quick summary of the events from the previous book before diving into this story. (Authors/publishers, please do this more often!) I had a great time with this book!

When a fellow sigil agent disappears, Al and his hobgoblin associate, Buck Foi, head to Australia to see what is going on. He soon runs into his secretary, Gladys, who is obviously more than he originally thought. The investigation really gets underway when Iron Druid, Atticus O’Sullivan arrives to help along with his dogs, Oberon and Starbuck. They make a great team and it was great to see them combine their skills to try to find out what was really going on. The mystery definitely kept me guessing and there was plenty of excitement to go around.

I have to admit that I haven’t quite read all of the books in the Iron Druid series yet but I have read enough to be very familiar with the world. Since this is a spin-off series, I didn’t think that there would be any issues so I was really surprised how big of a role Atticus played in this story. I wasn’t lost or anything but if you want to make sure that you avoid all spoilers, it would probably be best to read the books in the Iron Druid series before jumping into this series.

Luke Daniels did an amazing job of bringing this story to life. He uses wonderfully distinct voices for all of the various characters so that the dialogue flows naturally. I loved getting the chance to hear him narrate some of the characters that I loved in the Iron Druid series. I love the fact that he is able to add humor and excitement to the story at just the right moments. I am confident that his narration added to my overall enjoyment of this book.

I would recommend this book to others. This story is set in a fantastic and interesting world filled with wonderful characters. I will definitely be reading more of this talented author’s work.

I received a digital review copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley and purchased a copy of the audiobook.
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