Markmaker: A Book about Alien Tattoo Artists

Mary Woods wrote a book. And its getting published in about a week. You should read it.

I had the privilege of reading an advance copy, so I wanted to share some thoughts on it before it gets released on October 3rd.

First off, its a very entertaining and engaging read. Even if you’re not a fan of Science Fiction or fantasy, you won’t regret reading this. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

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.

Here’s the cover of the book: Mariikel, drawn by Donan Scholl

Like it says, this is about an alien race that relies on tattoos not only for culture, but identity. As such, its a very artistic book, and the descriptions of the tattoos are vivid and beautiful. Mary does a really good job at making Noxxiin culture come to life in general. We get a good sense of the environment the Noxx live in, the way living on starships for generations has affected them, the history and culture they have developed through their tattoos, and most importantly, we learn about the Markmakers. Specifically, Mariikel.

I love the idea of the markmakers. The way they operate in society is somewhat akin to the priesthood because of the importance of tattoos. The markings are almost a sacramental sign, for example, a marriage mark is necessary for the wedding to be acknowledged, and a baby requires his clan mark to be ‘baptized’ into his clan and his identity as a child of that clan recognized. Yet Mary doesn’t stop there. There is a deeper good to be found than the markings, and that is what our protagonist tries to bring to the exiles of the underbelly. He brings the marks, but he gives more than simply ink. His struggle to reconcile his desire to help those discarded by Noxxiin society and follow the oaths he swore as a Markmaker is very well-written. I can’t say too much more without spoiling it, but suffice to say, this is a very well-written book, with tight world-building and a gripping story with a believably conflicted and sympathetic main character.

Here’s a link to pre-order the book from Chrism press: https://chrismpress.com/books/markmaker/

If you aren’t already a part of Mary’s author newsletter, you should consider joining! She’ll even give you 15% off your pre-order if you join before October 3rd! You’ll get to see her characters and world brought to life through commissioned artwork and recorded music. Here’s the link to join: https://maryjessicawoods.com/newsletter/

Now that I’m in the Theology level of seminary, and classes have gotten busier, I’ve really appreciated having good fiction around to decompress from the papal documents and Church history books. Yet I also appreciate Markmaker for its beauty as a work of art that would make Kilmaya proud! I hope you get a chance to read it yourself.

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