Inked, by Eric Smith, is a book I bought back in December with the intent to suck up to the author – who happens to be a literary agent (and by suck up, I mean research his tastes through seeing what he writes). Although, in truth, what sold me the most was the presence of moving tattoos in the book. Those lucky few of you who’ve read my first few books will be familiar with the creatures in my world known as ink sprites – basically, living tattoos. I was intrigued to see what a different author would do with a similar concept. I was not disappointed – I love how similar ideas can branch out to have such different results.
Inked is set in a world where everyone, once they come of age, are tattooed with a magical ink that will show them what profession they will have for the rest of their lives – a florist might have flowery tattoos that grow and wilt with the seasons, while a smith could look to have trails molten metal coursing across their body. Naturally, Caenum is nervous about discovering his destiny as the time for his Inking approaches. The last thing he expects is for a catastrophe to strike his village, sending him and his lifelong friend Dreya on a magic-filled journey that will reveal the dark secret of Ink.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It pulled me through, wanting to find out more about this fascinating world. I found the adventure to be fun and entertaining and the writing was excellent – I often struggle to read books written in first person (my brain has trouble focusing on that POV for some reason), but with this book I had no such problems.
The characters were deep and interesting, but at the same time I felt they were a bit erratic. There were a few times throughout the book that characters behaved in a way that, to me, felt out of character – it could be the writer in me, but I felt like they were making choices or having extreme emotional reactions solely for the purpose of moving the plot forward. I would have been accepting of this as a character trait in one, maybe two, of the characters, but it was a bit too common and each time it happened I felt distracted from the story.
There were also a few points when I was slightly confused by minor things in the environment. I loved the imagery of the Inked horse, but at the same time couldn’t help wondering if a horse’s tattoos would be visible through its fur. There was also a point where I had understood there to be snow on the ground, but suddenly there wasn’t. I’m not certain if it was a continuity thing, or simply that the change wasn’t clearly established.
The plot itself flowed well and was entertaining. There were no surprises for me, but that’s because when I’m reading I’m always working out what is going to happen next. To me, no surprises means the author did a good job with foreshadowing – which he did. The plot twists were excellent and well-timed.
All in all, I would recommend this book, especially to people who love interesting and well-designed worlds. And sneakily hidden pop culture references. Shame on you, Eric. Shame.
Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.