ARC Review: “Ink and Shadows,” by Ellery Adams

Happy Sunday, all! I was so ridiculously excited to receive Ink and Shadows by Ellery Adams. I have read all of the Secret, Bone, and Scone Society novels, as well as most of her Books on the Bay and Book Retreat mysteries, and this is by far my favorite series out of everything she has written. Ink and Shadows was particularly exceptional, and was one of my favorite ones in the series also. So thank you, Netgalley and Kensington Books, for this opportunity!

As a caveat, this is definitely a series to read in order. However, if you have read the series, or want to know more about it, check this out:


From the Publisher:

Controversy erupts in Miracle Springs, North Carolina, when the owner of the local bookstore tries to play peacekeeper—but winds up playing detective instead…

Nora Pennington is known for her window displays, and as Halloween approaches, she decides to showcase fictional heroines like Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Madeline Miller’s Circe. A family-values group disapproves of the magical themes, though, and wastes no time launching a modern-day witch hunt. Suddenly, former friends and customers are targeting not only Nora and Miracle Books, but a new shopkeeper, Celeste, who’s been selling CBD oil products.

Nora and her friends in the Secret, Book, and Scone Society are doing their best to put an end to the strife—but then someone puts an end to a life. Though the death is declared an accident, the ruling can’t explain the old book page covered with strange symbols and disturbing drawings left under Nora’s doormat, a postcard from an anonymous stalker, or multiple cases of vandalism.

The only hope is that Nora can be a heroine herself and lead the Secret, Book, and Scone Society in a successful investigation—before more bodies turn up and the secrets from Celeste’s past come back to haunt them all . . . 


What I Loved:

  • The Secret, Book, and Scone Society. Nora has the group of friends that every woman wants: Supportive, willing to help out when times are rough, always good food and wine flowing, and filled with laughter. The women all support other women – as soon as they know Celeste is having problems, they all step in to help her with the shop and keep her fed. They are all creative and intelligent and bounce off of each others’ strengths. While in some of the prior books, I was annoyed by Hester’s moodiness, or Nora’s secretiveness, most of the problems have gone away as the women have all grown and became more trusting. Ink and Shadows brought the best out in all four of them. Also, who can’t love new characters librarian Bobbie and sassy shopkeeper Sheldon!
  • Attention to “Banning Books” Culture. I loved that Adams brought in a group of puritanical, preachy people that have it out for books on witchcraft, spiritual shops, and non-Christian beliefs, because Miracle Springs was getting to be a little *too* perfect. Sadly, people like that exist, and I liked that Adams faced it head-on and kept most of the town levelheaded about it. Nora’s shop display with all of the strong witchy women really spoke to me – I would live in a bookstore like that! And it really speaks of a safe space for all members of the community. I am a huge supporter in all literature being available and ready to be read, regardless of opinion, and loved seeing Nora champion the cause with her combination of class and secret sass. It was also awesome seeing “young readers” and I loved how Adams peppered Ink and Shadows with great YA recommendations.
  • (Semi-related) The Witchery. Magic permeates Ink and Shadows, from the angel Juliana that guards Celeste, to the spooky grimoire, to the witchy women in the window (say that three times fast) at Miracle Books. The Secret, Book, and Scone Society series has always had a hint of magical realism in Nora’s bibliotherapy abilities and Hester’s comfort scone creations, but this is the first book in the series the bring in more overtly magical elements. I loved every minute of it!

What Didn’t Work as Well (for me):

  • The Murder Mysteries. I often have a hard time when books kill people I like, no matter long long I have known the character or predicted the murder. Ink and Shadows was no exception, so you can probably take this with a grain of salt. Furthermore, I thought the method of murders to be creative and interesting, and I learned something new while reading this, so no issue there. However, I disliked the big reveal and felt like the actual mystery was too nebulous to the plot itself – this felt more like a great women’s literature book with some murders thrown in. This wasn’t a deal breaker for me, but it may be for some diehard cozy fans.
  • Nora/Jed/ the Sheriff. Okay, I think we can *all* agree Jed was an unmitigated ass in this book. He puts unnecessary demands on Nora, and is largely absent from Ink and Shadows. While his absence was completely understandable given the circumstances (taking care of his ill mother), his attitude and behavior was completely unjustified. Nora as a heroine is very likable, and it is frustrating seeing her stressed over “a boy.” On the contrary, the sheriff is solicitous, there for Nora, and keeps her company. Nora experiences a minor twinge of feelings for the Sheriff before Jed comes to his senses, and I am very concerned that this is going to lead to a love triangle. No thank you. I hope that Adams either fixes Jed, or brings Nora and the Sheriff together officially.

Conclusion:

It is a testament to how awesome Ellery Adams is that two of my biggest pet peeves appear in Ink and Shadows (love triangles and random murders) and they barely affected my enjoyment of this book. At the heart of the Secret, Book, and Scone Society series is strong and supportive women who all grow together, and really great books. Book 4 was no exception. Four waves out of five!

Ink and Shadows releases on January 26, so pre-order now to have it at your doorstep! Buy it here (on sale at Bookshop now), or if you haven’t started this awesome series yet, buy The Secret, Book, and Scone Society here (in paperback, no less!)

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