During a recent binge watch of BookTube videos, I came across one from JesseTheReader where he talked about a few of his anticipated winter 2015 releases. Inked was the first on the list, and the cover combined with the synopsis grabbed me straight away.
Thanks to Netgalley i’ve had the opportunity to read it early for an honest review.
What’s it about?
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.
What’d I think?
Magical tattoos binding you to a singular, enforced destiny, and a young group of rebels fighting back against this system of control. Doesn’t the plot sound exciting? I was really gunning for this to blow me away so it is unfortunate that such potentially strong book is let down by poor writing. Then again I have just come off the high that is Coraline, maybe it was a little unfair to follow up with a debut in the YA genre.
I came close to putting Inked down a number of times. For the most part, the characters are dry and one dimensional. There are some exceptions among the “Unprinted”, a group of men who have chosen to avoid getting their tattoos. Tabor and Griska are particularly interesting, given enough time to show a bit of depth. They illustrate that Smith is capable of writing compelling characters, at least some of the time. Just a shame that our main protagonists Caenum, Dreya and Kenzi are all flat as cardboard.
The magic system is what kept me going with this when I was struggling. We have common offensive abilities, like control of the elements (fire, water, earth, air) but then also less common things like controlling and growing plants. When utilising magic, the user gains more sensory perception of the world around them, in ways that relate to their power. I thought it was a really nice touch that the user is harmed when someone attacks the object of their magic (flames extinguished, plants killed etc).
The titular Ink is a somewhat confusing element in the plot. From the beginning we are told that the process seals your fate, and Caenum does whatever he can to avoid being Inked. Then further on we meet characters who are Inked, but are happily doing something directly opposed to their given destiny. So which is it?
As for the plot itself, there is a doozy of a twist at the end that is terrible and abrupt. The book needed to spend more time in this section building up to the twist, in order for it to have any sort of emotional response. It was like the author decided they needed action specifically at this point and it really felt unnatural. As it is, it sort of just happens, and then the book ends.
What’s the verdict?
A world filled with potential is let down by clumsy writing and poor character and plot development. There are so many great fantasy books in the Young Adult genre that I find it hard to recommend Inked to anyone. I would have given this a 2.5 but i’m rounding it up to a 3.
If you are looking for a well written and gripping YA fantasy, why not try Sabriel by Garth Nix instead.
This book is available on the Kindle book store. I generally read my books through the Kindle eReader or the free app on my Android phone.
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