Author: Eric Smith
Publication: January 20th 2015 by Bloomsbury Spark
Source: Gifted by the author (thank you Eric!)
Genre: Fiction—Dystopia, Fantasy
Other classifications: Young Adult
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.
As a child, I’ve been—and still am—fascinated by the moving photographs of the wizardly world of Harry Potter. As a young man, I’m crazy about gifs. Now, you sell me a book that has tattoos moving in people’s arms? Heck yeah! Inked, like its predecessors and other dystopian cousins, plays at pigeonholing humans. You are this so you do just this. But I find the concept Smith used to carry out the material to be positively appealing and intriguing. My problem, however, lies in the character voice and pacing.
“How he wanted to live freely, how he had wanted, like all of us, to have a choice. How he made his own way, and how it was the right one.”
It took me a while to get into the story. And even then, the plot unraveled rather slowly. For all the attempts in running away, Caenum never seemed to leave Frosthaven. It felt more like ambling when I would have preferred galloping. But then there’s the plot twist. I will not spoil it; suffice it to say I was understandably shocked.
“I don’t even know me!”
As for the characters, I had little connection to anyone. I mean, Caenum is fine. I’m impressed that he wasn’t a pawn (a la Panem tributes) and that there were moments where he was torn between duty and what he felt was right. Bonus points, he can be well wry. But he sounded younger than he was supposed to be. And fretful. Kenzi, on the other hand, I enjoyed reading about. His friendship with Caenum is something I wish was fleshed out more, for in the minimum airtime they had, I was already sold. And not to give away too much, there’s a parent story that’s not a banality in today’s myriad of YA dystopias. Otherwise, the secondary characters don’t have much going on for them.
“We both smiled at each other. Gross.”
I also think the revelation about the origin of the Ink is weird and creepy, in a compelling way. This is my favorite part; I wanted to read on and on. So if you’re into dystopia with a strange, interesting element, do read Inked. Plus there’s no love triangle. Man, is that refreshing.
Eric Smith is an author and blogger living in Philadelphia. He’s written for BuzzFeed, BoingBoing, Geekosystem (now The Mary Sue), The Huffington Post, and is a regular contributor to BookRiot. He co-founded the hyperlocal blog Geekadelphia, as well as the Philadelphia Geek Awards with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. His essays have appeared in The Apiary and Bygone Bureau, and his other books include The Geek’s Guide to Dating, which has sold into six languages. When he isn’t writing, he can be found spending time with his fiancée and their bunny (Rory) and chinchilla (Mittens).