Xan & Ink by Zak Zyz – Review

Title – Xan and Ink
Author – Zak Zyz
Genre –  Dark Fantasy
Length –  274 Pages
Publication – October 2016
My Rating – 4/5 Stars


Two disgraced brothers, a fanatical priest and an escaped slave venture into the foreboding Kalparcimex, an uncharted jungle teeming with an incredible variety of wondrous and murderous insects. When the legendary ranger Xan refuses to help the adventurers on their quest for redemption, they enter into an ill-advised pact with Ink, a cursed sorceress who stains everything she touches. Caught in the conflict between the two powerful figures, the four banished heroes must confront their darkest desires to escape the Kalparcimex!


This was a rather interesting read. Each character is very unique with their motivations, brought together for the same cause. Can they trust each other? Will their differing viewpoints cause issues?

The story starts with the four main characters being sent out to save a kingdom that is under siege from the weird and wonderful animals of the Kalparcimex.

We are thrust into the dark world quickly as a number of people die very quickly indeed which sets the tone of the book nicely.

Xan foretold the Kalparcimex would expand many years ago and after a short debate our would be heroes set out to find him to see what can be done to stop these animals spreading any further.   Xan is brilliant.. the first meeting with him told you everything you need to know about him.. he’s sure of himself.. knows he was right.. and acts like a bit of an arse because of this. The would be heroes quickly learn he’s not going to help them.

From here we meet Ink.. I’m not going to spoil anything about how the group come together but Ink has a way with people..she can easily control them..and she’s powerful. Since Xan won’t help our heroes Ink decides she will.. although you know her motivations aren’t going to be as honest as she makes them appear.

From here the group head into the Kalparcimex to hunt down an animal which can rid their kingdom of the tinks which are attacking their people and livestock.. The Kalparcimex is a strange and very complex place. This is Xan’s home.. he knows the place better than anyone. What takes place next is a cat and mouse game and Xan does everything he can to stop them.

This is where the book takes a very sharp twist.. it’s no longer a fantasy tale where heroes search and find what they need to save their kingdom. They are divided.. hurt.. changed..It’s all very dark and very very unique

The group consists of Sandros and his brother Gregary. Gregary is a solider..big and strong.. Sandros on the other hand isn’t.. but he has power.. he can control fire. We also have Brakkar the priest and Osolin the former slave.

What happens in the Kalparcimex is so completely out of the box.. like nothing I’ve read before.. not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what was to come. This is what made the book stand out..dark and creepy and so unexpected

Each character has their own journey at this point but it really did feel like Ink stole the show at this stage as she manages to entice a few of the characters into some very graphic sexual experiences.. up until this point I would have said the book was suitable for all but that very much changed.. I’m no prude but even I looked around while I was on the bus to make sure no one was reading over my shoulder ha

Again I don’t want to give the plot away but my favourite thing was the journey Brakkar goes through… he changes.. it takes a lot of imagination to come up with a plot like this. So many twists and competing stories but it worked and everything felt right..

For me the only thing that was hard to imagine was the monsters of the Kalparcimex, near the beginning of the book we are introduced to one of the animals when it attacks but at that point you know nothing about it so it was a little hard to imagine the action as it happened.. it didn’t spoil anything for me but it would have flowed better for me if the dangers had been discussed between the characters before they appeared so I could follow things a bit easier.

The ending while pretty good did come abruptly.. but I feel this was due to the authors very unique way of storytelling. The end is nothing like what I expected and did leave me wondering if another book is planned of if the author is planning to leave the future in the readers hands..

Unique is a word I’ve used a few times in this review and that’s how’d id sum the tale up. Thoroughly enjoyed the tale and was left with the wow felling afterwards as it’s so clearly different from anything else I’ve read

If you enjoy dark fantasy and like the idea of a quest being turned on its head then this is the book for you. A dark, weird and wonderful world awaits you..

I do hope the author goes back to this world.. There’s so many possibilities

The book is out now! To find out more head to Goodreads, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

My thanks go to the author and Margot at Gut Punch Press for the chance to read/review the book

The author has very kindly given me a few facts about himself that as a reader you’ll never know.. take a look


Zak Zyz has worked as a welder, electrician, roofer, and cryptologic linguist, and is currently a sinister systems administrator in DUMBO, Brooklyn. He hosts The Surreal Symphony, a late-night call in show, and Strategically Correct, a Brooklyn board gaming society. Zak has been published on Tor.com and appeared on Hour of the Wolf. His first novella, SURVIVAL MODE, was published in 2015. Xan and Ink is his first novel.


More about the author –

1: Zak has hitchhiked cross-country and visited all 48 contiguous states. He has many stories about weird, dangerous and wonderful encounters he had while thumbing across America. He has also backpacked extensively in Europe and Central America.


2: Zak is an abstract expressionist painter and produces a lot of weird-looking art. He is a finalist for the Macktez summer stipend, and was recently featured in a forthcoming documentary about NYC artists by HAZEfilm. He sells space-themed handmade art and jewelry as Jupiter’s Forge. His methodology and art are bizarre and compelling.


3: Zak has been involved in numerous pirate radio stations and has been broadcasting for 20 years in a number of formats. In his time as a clandestine broadcaster he has been raided by the FCC, attacked by disgruntled DJs, and banned from a station for life by an angry anarchist tribunal. He continues to broadcast every tuesday night on KPISS, a tiny station in Bushwick that broadcasts out of a shipping container.


  1. Zak worked as a hotel manager in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina and defied the mandatory evacuation order to help defend The Olivier House Hotel against looters. He survived during the state of anarchy that followed and has many anecdotes about canoeing down Canal street, fighting off looters, delivering food to refugees and ultimately escaping New Orleans.


  1. Zak is an avid board gamer with an enormous collection of modern board games. Strategically Correct, his board game society is an invite-only gladiatorial rendezvous for some of the most combative minds in New York. STRAC’s members include former World Boardgaming Championship champions for Agricola, Race for the Galaxy, and Diplomacy. You can only join by defeating a champion at their own game. Zak is always up to date on the latest new releases, industry news, and trends in traditional board gaming.


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