Guest Review: Ink and Shadows (Ink and Shadows #1) Audiobook by Rhys Ford

Kismet Andreas lives in fear of the shadows.

For the young tattoo artist, the shadows hold more than darkness. He is certain of his insanity because the dark holds creatures and crawling things only he can see—monsters who hunt out the weak to eat their minds and souls, leaving behind only empty husks and despair.

And if there’s one thing Kismet fears more than being hunted—it’s the madness left in its wake.

The shadowy Veil is Mal’s home. As Pestilence, he is the youngest—and most inexperienced—of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, immortal manifestations resurrected to serve—and cull—mankind. Invisible to all but the dead and insane, the Four exist between the Veil and the mortal world, bound to their nearly eternal fate. Feared by other immortals, the Horsemen live in near solitude but Mal longs to know more than Death, War and Famine.

Mal longs to be… more human. To interact with someone other than lunatics or the deceased.

When Kismet rescues Mal from a shadowy attack, Pestilence is suddenly thrust into a vicious war—where mankind is the prize, and the only one who has faith in Mal is the human the other Horsemen believe is destined to die.

Listening Length: 11 hrs 8 mins
Narrator: Greg Tremblay
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Guest Reviewer: Fantasy Living

Kismet lives day to day, trying to survive the things that stir in his mind, ward off the monsters that lurk in the shadows, and come to him when he is alone, encroaching on his mind, and sending him closer to madness. Only the sweet bliss of drugs stops him from seeing the shadowy monsters he knows are always there.

Mal is the underdog of the Four Horsemen. As the newly appointed Pestilence he has to learn to fit in with the other three, after the last Pestilence moved on. He is dismissed by all but Death, who warns the others to give Mal a chance to become part of the group. It is not an easy task to be belittled and scorned by two of the three whom have been around each other for a long time. He tries not to let it get to him, but sometimes he wishes he had a friend.

On one of the many outings Mal is sent on with War, they stumble across Wraiths ripping through the Veil that separates them from the Human realm, and while trying to defend themselves, Mal and Kismet’s lives collide.

This story was just wow. The beginning of the series, Rhys Ford has seriously outdone any paranormal series set-up I have read so far. We are slowly shown, through vivid descriptions and very direct dialogue the world behind the Veil, the way it works, what the Horsemen are tasked to do, and how it all comes together to form the world around us.

The descriptive text used to show us this world is both rich and horrifying. There is a dreamlike quality to this story, almost as if reading the story through a veil. There are also horror elements that make this story a little darker than I thought it would be. I am in awe of how this world was revealed to me. It didn’t drag, everything was set up in a way that had you asking a question in your mind, and then receiving the answer almost straight away. Like the author is manipulating your mind in the direction you are to follow. There was no info dumping at all. We were showed when we needed to know. This level of skill is top notch, and as much as I loved the McGuinnis Series, I think I’m going to love this series more. I wasn’t given anything that had me asking “Okay, but what does that have to do with anything?”, nor was I confused and thinking “Why haven’t I been told what this means?”. It is a slow build, a tease, and then enough to get you through the next scene.

All the characters get a point of view in this story, but only when it is required, and directly relates to what is going on. The villain’s plan is revealed slowly, and the plot unfolds through the story in a well timed symphony of action and quieter internal musings.

The romance element is there, barely, but it is a background to the story arc. We see budding new relationships and revitalising of ancient love. There is no sex in this story, but there is enough UST to keep the relationships relevant. It’s gentle, subtle, and everything I could want in a book where the central theme is the wider plot. There is no interruption during the action for the characters to run off and get naked (not that there’s anything wrong with that), because it just would not have fit. There is too much going on, too many dangers, too many injuries, for there to be an appropriate time for anything more than stolen kisses.

It wasn’t all perfect, the condition Kismet was in, leant to a destruction or lack of self-preservation that had him making poor choices. There were some questionable movements where I thought, “this guy isn’t all there, he’s almost TSTL”, and I think that is the way he was supposed to come across. Something extraordinary is happening to this somewhat ordinary man, and he’s too drugged out and inside his own head to see that his life's in danger. But he was likeable, and knowing what I know about him made me want him to be well, and be present, participating in this extraordinary thing that was going on.

Once again, Greg Tremblay makes this story amazing in audio. He is my number one choice of narrator at this stage. I like others, but I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to any others’ skill that reaches this level. From accents, to inflections, gentle delivery, and perfect pitch. This man’s voice is just awesome.

I’m excited to see where this series is going. I could wax poetry about this world, but I think you should just go and read/listen to it yourself. A wonderfully different take on the Four Horsemen; Death, War, Famine, and Pestilence, and one bottom of the rung human who happens to have something someone else wants.

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