Sunday 2 October 2022

Markmaker - Mary Jessica Woods

ISBN 9781941720950

This is a stunning debut novel from Mary Jessica. My son and I listened to this story during a long road trip using adaptive technology. The story was fascinating from start to finish. And we both hope it will be the first of many stories set in this world. We listened to the story over almost 7 hours during a trip and the journey back. When we stopped on the way there the first thing my son asked was if we were continuing the story when we got back in the car. The description of this book is:

“He swore to paint the truth. Now he is living a lie.

For the Noxxiin people, tattoos define identity: they commemorate birth, ancestry, accomplishments—even crimes. As a tattoo artist living on an ancient generation ship, Mariikel Serix has sworn to record the truth. So when he becomes an unwilling accomplice in the banishment of an innocent man, he is horrified that he has broken his oath—and his eyes are opened to the misery of the Underbelly, the realm of the outcasts.

Despite the risk to himself, the young markmaker begins secretly helping the ship’s exiles. But more trouble is brewing. The Serix guild, which regulates the ceremonial tattoos, engages in a power struggle with the Ascendance, a domineering political faction—and the conflict threatens to destroy the fragile peace among the Noxxiin clans. Amidst this discord, an enigmatic artist named Haza’ruux singles out Mariikel to be his apprentice, for hidden reasons of his own. As Mariikel ventures deeper into a maze of political strife and ancient clan secrets, he realizes that his pursuit of justice may not only cost his reputation—it may cost him his life.”

My son commented that the story had a bit of a Babylon 5 feel to it, especially comparing the exiled to people in down below on B5. He loved the concepts of clans, and factions, and family as presented in the story. And he was intrigued by the idea of a life told in ink, your successes and failures, achievements and punishments. Family, clan, marriage, children all inked in the skin. My son loved that Mariikel was not really ashamed of being a skin changer. How he believed that his work for those in exile was a different sort of honourable task. That he was trying to make up for a wrong he feels he committed. We both loved the concept of the mad markmaker, his role and slowly unfolding history and position of true authority. Is it wrong to do something that is a crime if it gives dignity to a baby and mother abandoned by society? It is a sin to try and make up for mistakes from our past, even if they cross societal rules, laws, and expectations?

We really could not stop listening to this amazing story. The characters are well thought out and crafted. The world is nearly unique. The concepts presented are masterfully written. The pacing is excellent. The tension starts with the opening words and builds throughout the novel.

My grandfather was a military lifer and was covered in tattoo’s from his time in service. When I was four my letter to Santa asked for a tattoo to be link my grandfather. My son when he was little would tap the wolf on my back and howl, and then tap his back and say ‘me’! My deceased brother was nearly covered in ink, and my other surviving brother has ink representing his wife and children. This story played close to our heart strings. Ink as truth, ink as history, ink as reminder and challenge, it is in our skin and blood. And it is written about in a wonderful way in this story.

The story is not implicitly Christian or even Catholic Fiction, for that matter, but the faith of the author is woven between the pages, in the underlying currents of emotions, feelings, and intentions of Mariikel. As a debut novel it is one of the best I have ever read. And having read this I would pick up the next offering from Woods’ pen without hesitation. It was an easy 5/5 stars for this from both my son and I. He even restarted reading it the day after we finished. He loved the story so much he wanted to reread it on his own. An excellent science fiction novel that crosses over into epic fantasy along the way of the telling.

A fantastic read that I can easily recommend! 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Mary Jessica Woods:

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