Review: The Tattooed Duchess by Victor Gischler

It’s been over a year since we were first introduced to the fantasy prowess of one Victor Gischler. His works typically found in the noir’ish blood splattering crime section of your favorite book store or on a spinning rack at the local comic book establishment, the jack-of-all-trades writer has proven himself more than capable of penning some mystical magical mayhem too.

The Tattooed Duchess cover art by Megan Haggerty
The Tattooed Duchess
cover design by Megan Haggerty

Direct from 47 North (Amazon Publishing SF/F imprint), The Tattooed Duchess by Victor Gischler is the second book in the appropriately named fantasy series A Fire Beneath the Skin. The follow-up to the first book Ink Mage gives readers a more in-depth perspective of the characters and the realm they live in. The action is just as fast, the characters are just as colorful, and the violence is just as stabby.

Published gradually in individual installments as a Kindle Series, The Tattooed Duchess is now completed and can be picked up as a whole novel in the Kindle format. If you’re still afraid of modern technology and prefer the hands on necessities of old-fashioned page turning books, the print copies (and audio copies if you’re concerned about paper cuts) are scheduled to be available in October.

Though some may be discouraged by the serial format, I found it a refreshing change of pace. Each installment ends with a mini cliffhanger, giving the reader just enough literary anxiety to make the wait that much more exciting. Getting that content notice in the in-box letting you know that a new episode is ready to read is like Christmas morning, over and over again.

So where are we at in the series?

Following the bloodbath allowing the Duchess Rina Veraiin to regain control of the Klaar Duchy at the end of Ink Mage, the young tattooed heroine must now pull together her team of misfit loyalist and rebuild the territory to the prominence it once held under the leadership of her late father. But the invading Parranese have not given up on conquering the land, a powerful God has arisen in a distant temple, and those close to the duchess may not be as loyal she thinks. Oh, and she’s contemplating getting more ink.

Throw in some political manipulations, some waring strategies using powerful wizards, some gratuitous sex, some adolescent misunderstandings, and a whole lot of hacking and slashing, and you have another fast paced by Gischler tale.

Ink_Mage_CoverThe Tattooed Duchess does not end as crisp as the Ink Mage did. The complexity is still there, but this time around, readers will turn the last page with a lot of unanswered questions and many of the primary characters are left dangling as they go off in various directions. Given that the books in A Fire Beneath the Skin series are being presented in mini installments through the Kindle Series format, fans should be used to the cliffhangers by now. Besides, I’m confident that everything will come back together with a flourish of blood and mayhem in A Painted Goddess (Book 3 title?).

For those who are intimidated by the dangling storyline, you need to look at it this way. The Tattooed Duchess is the setup to the final book in the series much like The Empire Strikes Back was to the Return of the Jedi. Fandom loved Star Wars and wanted more. But it had to be bigger and better because we are a selfish lot. We loved Ink Mage and now we want more. Nuff said.

Readers don’t have to read the first book in the series to enjoy The Tattooed Duchess by Victor Gischler. But to appreciate the full scope of the heroine’s journey, it is highly recommended to go back and experience Ink Mage – if you haven’t already. And when the final book comes out, I’ll be patiently waiting…for each little installment…because it’s worth it and because I’m selfish.

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