The Battle of Blood and Ink is one of those books that, when you look at its parts, should make me happy.
The graphic novel, by Jared Axelrod and Steve Walker has all of the following:
- A heroine who’s more than a sexy babe with a weapon
- Air pirates
- A flying city
- A sort of B-story about the need for an informed populace
Let’s take it step by step.
The heroine: Ashe, a young woman who’s grown up on the streets of the flying city of Amperstam and publishes The Lurker’s Guide, an anonymous one sheet reporting all the news the government doesn’t want citizens to know. This steampunk underground journalist is wanted by the authorities for continuously airing out their morally corrupt shenanigans.
I like Ashe quite a lot. She’s a plucky reporter with wit and a quick mind. The only thing I can’t really get behind with her is her wardrobe, which is a tiered full skirt, a bustier, and printers’ sleeves. Those printers’ sleeves are pretty conspicuous for a printer who’s wanted. Surely Ashe could throw on a bolero or something instead.
Air Pirates: never not cool. And yes, I listened to Abney Park (album: Lost Horizons) while reading this.
The Flying City: The entire city flies as one construct with the top completely open to the sky. Similar to Starship UK on Doctor Who, how it flies is a mystery with a terrible answer. Amperstam is ruled by the Provost, who has absolute power. We all know what they say about absolute power, so she’s obviously a malevolent force.
The Need for an Informed Populace: This is the whole point of Ashe’s Lurker’s Guide. The Provost conducts herself with no oversight and is happy to keep Amperstam’s residents in the dark, believing that they don’t really want to know, anyway. Ashe is of the mind that the residents need to know what’s going on and empowers them with that information. It’s basically a battle for freedom of the press, or a battle between corporate and indie media.
The parts are there. The Battle of Blood and Ink provides a good heroine and tickles my seething resentment toward corporate news media, but it’s not cohesive. There’s not enough space in the 140 or so pages of the book to address everything well, and so it feels rushed and a little shallow.
From a practical standpoint, there’s another issue. Tor provided me with a review copy, but as a consumer, I’d most likely see the price point and put The Battle of Blood and Ink right back on the shelf. The hardcover is nice, but for that price I expect better quality paper and color interior pages (it’s in black and white).
Cheese Rating Factor: Domestic Gruyere. Decent flavor notes, great for melting in a roux, but a bit pricey for a cheese from Wisconsin.