Friday, February 20, 2015

Inked by Eric Smith

The Basics:
Inked by Eric Smith
Bloomsbury Spark
Kids/YA Fantasy
Published January 20, 2015
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon Kobo Goodreads

Why I picked up this book:

Magic tattoos + YA Fantasy?  Yes, please. 


Tattoos once were an act of rebellion. 

Now they decide your destiny the moment the magical Ink settles under your skin. 

And in a world where Ink controls your fate, Caenum can't escape soon enough. He is ready to run from his family, and his best friend Dreya, and the home he has known, just to have a chance at a choice. 

But when he upsets the very Scribe scheduled to give him his Ink on his eighteenth birthday, he unwittingly sets in motion a series of events that sends the corrupt, magic-fearing government, The Citadel, after him and those he loves. 

Now Caenum, Dreya, and their reluctant companion Kenzi must find their way to the Sanctuary, a secret town where those with the gift of magic are safe. Along the way, they learn the truth behind Ink, its dark origins, and why they are the only ones who can stop the Citadel.

My thoughts:

Inked reads like a very young YA story. There's a lack of sophistication in how the characters relate to each and the world around them that's appropiate for a young reader. However, there is something charming about the story, and I found it enjoyable, if at times a bit awkward.

This book has a very fresh take on the YA fantasy genre. There are no paranormal monsters in Inked. Instead, the monsters are people, some who are Conduits for aspects of magic, and some who report to the Citadel, the ruling body of this world. 

Every citizen is inked with a tattoo that indicates the profession they are then to take up. It wasn't entirely clear to me whether the ink chooses an initial form, or if the 'scribe' applying the ink has any input, but regardless, once you're inked, your path in life is chosen. I liked this - there's an implication that everyone is sorted into the careers that will best suit them. I have to assume that this magically works out to create balance in the realm, with enough people best suited to farm and bake and butcher and so on to support the population. The important thing here is that while everyone is sorted according to their affinities, this has no strict relation to their passions or interests - they may love what they're sorted into, or they may simply be good at it. Overall, I thought the world building was pretty darn good with the exception of giving me a clear sense of geography - see below for more on that. 

Our hero, Caenum, doesn't want to be inked according to schedule because he doesn't feel he knows himself well enough yet. At age eighteen, he wants to venture out alone (and illegally) to learn about himself. The book gets started with his best friend (and crush) Dreya interrupts his getaway. The story very quickly snowballs with things going from bad to worse to even worse and so on. Caenum and his companions are very reactive - there's a lot of running, escaping, running some more. Despite this, I didn't get a great sense of geography, and the travel felt... not extensive. For all the sense of it that I had, they could have travelled for miles and miles, or maybe just to the other side of the local forest. You know those maps that epic fantasy novels often have in the front of them? I kind of wished this one had a map that kept appearing every few chapters with a line showing us how far they had travelled, with a 'you are here' spot on it. 

There were also some things in the book that felt a little too convenient - whether details that are revealed about various characters or people who show up at the most opportune moment. That said, I think it all does work for a younger reader. I think I expected or wanted the story to be grittier than it was and was a little disappointed - which, obviously, is not that fault of Inked.

Where I think Inked lets us down is by having the main characters in their late teens. Why not younger? Why not sixteen or even younger? It would be believable to me for the inking to happen at a younger age - in this sort of fantastical setting, it seems logical that apprenticeships and such would happen before people were considered to be fully grown adults. Plus, Caneum, Dreya and Kenzi all seemed much younger to me than eighteen or nineteen years old. I actually forgot about their ages and when it kind of came up again at the end of the book, I was a little shocked. 

Bottom line:

Inked was a whole lot less badass than I expected but it was still quite entertaining. I would recommend it for young readers. The inking/tattoo concept was very cool and I'd love to come back to this world but with a story that's slightly more mature and active.

3.5 stars
For fans of fantasy, magic tattoos

But don't just take my word for it! I grabbed a few links to other blog reviews of Inked:

Snuggly Oranges

That's What She Read

Feed Your Fiction Addiction

The Book Nut

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