Title: Blood & Ink
This is a difficult book to know what to do with.
On one hand it's a fairly boring, typical Romeo and Juliet story (with a twist). On the other hand it's based on real events in Timbuktu in 2012 which makes it both relevant, educational and sad all at once.
Historical Content & Importance
Blood and Ink is set in 2012 Timbuktu when radicals Muslims took over the city. These are real life people who believe women should always be veiled in public. Now Timbuktu had been, to date, a very progressive Muslim society in which many women chose not be veiled. So this was an obvious infringement on their rights. Among many other things that happened during that time of occupation
Timbuktu had public lashings!!
I cannot even begin to tell you how disturbing I find this. Not only, that it happened a mere five years ago; but also that my sheltered Canadian self remembers hearing of the occupation of Timbuktu and not thinking it meant much at the time. Let me stand corrected now. Stephen Davies has opened my eyes to the radical violence that came (and in some cases still comes) from these jihads. I find it truly disturbing.
I pledge from here forward to be more aware of the actual circumstances that fair practicing, innocent Muslims undergo. And that if anything is in my power to act or do something I will. Even if it's only to bring awareness.
Why just the event is not enough
No matter how important or world shattering a book may be due to its context and content that doesn't make it good writing or characters interesting.
Without a doubt the main events, based on true stories, are compelling and horrifying in Blood and Ink but that's really where it ends. Everything Davies added to the book; his characters, motivations, etc are dull and cliche.
To take an event like the protecting of the manuscripts and dumb it down to a couple children being responsible seems offensive to the original folks who actually spent weeks achieving his smuggling act. To indicate somehow that the entire occupation somehow laid on one little boys shoulders in many ways is also ludicrous.
What I would normally accept in completely fictional stories (extraordinary children) I just cannot abide by when the events actually happened in a completely different way. What was wrong with telling the story the way it happened?
Historical Fiction is Different
I read a lot of historical fiction based on true events. This is one of a rare few where it's historical fiction written for the young adult crowd. This intrigued me at first; but after reading Blood and Ink I think that Davies has taken complex human emotions, motivations and acts, and dumbs them down to lowest common denominator.
I'm not a fan of this as it seems to do disservice to the actual history.
I look at stories like Titanic where the storyline we follow plays no bearing on the ship sinking. This I'm okay with as our characters did not cause or create the iceberg hit. But in Blood and Ink our two main characters appears to be behind almost all the major decisions and events. This doesn't feel right to me.
I know there are extraordinary people and children in our world. And I love to read about them. But don't downplay the importance of real people by having your fictional characters take credit for things they shouldn't. Because somewhere out there now is someone(s) who perhaps believes a teen girl in Timbuktu single-handedly actually did what this girl does in the book.
We should be cautious of ever giving too much credit to the wrong people in historical fiction.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.