When most people are bored they do things like watch TV or (the obvious) read a book. Me? I’m not most people. As a matter of fact, I think it’s safe to officially categorize myself as incredibly odd and woefully abstract. The evidence for this statement is, well…overwhelming, but to stay on point let’s talk about what I do when I’M bored. Learn languages. Not languages that could actually benefit me however (cause who in their right mind would need Spanish in Texas?) but languages like Mandarin, so I can immerse myself in the beauty of it’s corresponding culture (aka add roughly 400 more movies to my Netflix cue.) I used to attain my fluency by translating books. (I was that weird girl you always saw at Starbucks reading a dictionary.) Now? I pretty much leave my quest for higher learning to Rosetta Stone. But after reading Amanda Sun’s debut novel “Ink” I realized something…I miss the challenge of learning while loving.
Say what?? “Learning…loving…I’m lost.”
“Ink” unlike anything I’ve read lately is a testament to cultural complexity, BUT not in a daunting way. Instead of hounding or blatantly overwhelming it’s audience with the cultural, psychological, and traditional differences of a country that is worlds apart from their own (assuming you aren’t of Japanese decent) Sun makes it a point to give you a tour first.
Katie (the instantly lovable protagonist in “Ink”) in not a Japanese native. Much like the reader, she (after the death of her parents) is on unfamiliar ground with limited knowledge of both the language and the customs surrounding her. The “wobbly ground” Katie finds herself so precariously perched upon in the foundation for Sun’s entire plot. (The discovery and understanding of varied lifestyles.)
Starting in chapter one we are slowly introduced to common Japanese phrases (For example: Moshi mosh — which is (for a lack of an easier explanation) basically “Hello!?” when answering the phone.) In chapter two we get a few more. By chapter three, new (and fun…if I do say so myself) characters start to establish themselves in the scenery and by chapter four… you are so totally drawn in that you barely notice your compulsive need to check the Japanese to English glossary found in the last 10 pages of the book.
Before you know it, the glossary becomes insignificant and the only thing that matters is the exotic and magical (art driven) plot that makes this novel so unique. (Speaking of art, this book is full of it! Literally. Award winning artist Petra Dufkova showers this story with her breathtaking pen art. It’s picture book 2.0)
Love, heartbreak, betrayal, sacrifice…even dragons…all find a place between the pages of “Ink” making this a fast past, mysterious, utterly engrossing read.
Were there problems? I’m sure there where a few (no book goes unblemished) but I found that my appreciation for a well thought out and executed plot (that being: some legends are based in reality) backed by engaging characters (both lead and secondary) and a spectacularly described local, trumped any negative I might have stumbled across.
In the end I found myself disappointed that the book was only 326 pages long. I could have easily lived inside of it for 200 more.
When it’s all said and done…I give it two very enthusiastic thumbs up. Highly recommended for lovers of “magic” and enrichment.
Happy reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: Sumeba miyako. (Wherever you live, you come to love.)