Reviews of Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Torzs

Ink Blood Sister Scribe

A Novel

by Emma Torzs

Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Torzs X
Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Torzs
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    May 2023, 416 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Maria Katsulos
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Book Summary

In this spellbinding debut novel, two estranged half-sisters tasked with guarding their family's library of magical books must work together to unravel a deadly secret at the heart of their collection - a tale of familial loyalty and betrayal, and the pursuit of magic and power.

For generations, the Kalotay family has guarded a collection of ancient and rare books. Books that let a person walk through walls or manipulate the elements—books of magic that half-sisters Joanna and Esther have been raised to revere and protect.

All magic comes with a price, though, and for years the sisters have been separated. Esther has fled to a remote base in Antarctica to escape the fate that killed her own mother, and Joanna's isolated herself in their family home in Vermont, devoting her life to the study of these cherished volumes. But after their father dies suddenly while reading a book Joanna has never seen before, the sisters must reunite to preserve their family legacy. In the process, they'll uncover a world of magic far bigger and more dangerous than they ever imagined, and all the secrets their parents kept hidden; secrets that span centuries, continents, and even other libraries...

In the great tradition of Ninth House, The Magicians, and Practical Magic, this is a suspenseful and richly atmospheric novel that draws readers into a vast world filled with mystery and magic, romance, and intrigue—and marks the debut of an extraordinary new voice in speculative fiction.


Abe Kalotay died in his front yard in late February, beneath a sky so pale it seemed infected. There was a wintery wet snowbite to the still air and the sprawled-open pages of the book at his side had grown slightly damp by the time his daughter Joanna came home and found his body lying in the grass by their long dirt driveway.

Abe was on his back, eyes half-opened to that gray sky, mouth slack and his tongue drying blue, one of his hands with its quick-bitten nails draped across his stomach. The other hand was resting on the book, forefinger still pressed to the page as if holding his place. A last smudge of vivid red was slowly fading into the paper and Abe himself was mushroom-white and oddly shriveled. It was an image Joanna already knew she'd have to fight against forever, to keep it from supplanting the twenty-four years' worth of living memories that had, in the space of seconds, become more precious to her than anything else in the world. She didn't make a sound when...

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BookBrowse Review


In Ink Blood Sister Scribe, magic flows through some families like blood, and the worldbuilding perfectly exemplifies that concept by making blood necessary for ritual spellwork. Descriptions of the ink-making process, from selecting the herbal components to drawing large quantities of blood to infusing the ink with magic, range from heart-wrenchingly intimate to chillingly clinical. Although some things stay behind the magician's curtain, the system of magic is well developed and explained overall. I particularly appreciated the alchemical, somatic roots of supernatural abilities paired with a self-referential, books-about-books emphasis on the importance of the written word...continued

Full Review Members Only (777 words)

(Reviewed by Maria Katsulos).

Media Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
Exceptional...This suspenseful dark fantasy, full of family drama, is perfect for readers of Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House, Holly Black's Book of Night, and Peng Shepherd's The Cartographers.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[B]ewitching...Törzs' simple magic system of books is straightforward, with clear rules set out for readers early on, leaving her plenty of space to explore how an obsession with power can twist people so deeply that they betray the ones they love. Esther and Joanna's complicated but loving relationship is wonderfully rendered, and Törzs pulls off such an expert series of twists that readers would be advised to cancel their plans until they get to the end. A fantastic magical adventure, not to be missed.

Library Journal (starred review)
Törzs's debut novel features a wonderfully realized and atmospheric world and a plot filled with unexpected twists...Törzs does a fantastic job creating a gripping and suspenseful story that keeps readers on their toes and wanting more. Fans of The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern will love this magic- and suspense-filled novel.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Törzs's spellbinding fantasy debut imagines a parallel Earth where gruesome magical spell books are written with the blood and bodies of people known as Scribes...Törzs's lyrical, idiosyncratic prose...elevates proceedings. This is a must-read.

Author Blurb GennaRose Nethercott, author of Thistlefoot
A fierce story of secrets, enchantment, and family both born and built, Ink Blood Sister Scribe left me more spellbound with each turning page. These characters will steal your heart—and perhaps, your blood. Törzs has conjured true magic.

Author Blurb Lesley Nneka Arimah, award-winning author of What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky
Ink Blood Sister Scribe is itself a magical book, brimming with all the elements that make a story sing—an engrossing plot, characters that steal your heart and make you laugh out loud, and a compelling energy that reveals a true storyteller at work. What a gorgeously satisfying read.

Author Blurb Marlon James, New York Times bestselling author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Follow where this novel leads and you will be lost in a bewitching spell, a book of magic about books of magic, and the people who reel from reading them. Go beyond the magic and you're left with a heartbreaking tale of family where truth blurs with lies, and blood isn't thick enough. A bold, new novel from an extraordinary new voice.

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Beyond the Book

Blood and Ink: Writing Materials Through the Ages

Close-up photo of worn fountain pen against gold-embossed stationary In Emma Törzs's Ink Blood Sister Scribe, the first word of the title plays an important role: By mixing blood with herbs, people can make ink with magical properties. In the real world, writing has been done with a variety of materials throughout history — including, from time to time, blood.

Evidence points to ink first being used in Egypt circa 3200 BCE, and in China around the same time. These inks were often carbon-based, created by mixing soot with binding agents like acacia gum. Iron gall ink, which was common in medieval and early modern Europe, is a mixture that incorporates gall nuts (a protective growth on oak trees that results from wasp nests) and ferrous sulfate. A reaction between these ingredients makes the...

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