Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: Inked by Eric Smith

Premise: Caenum is just days away from his Inking, the day when he'll get a magical tattoo that determines his future career. But when he angers a Scribe, a magical tattoo artist, Caenum sets in a motion events that send the brutal government after him and everyone he cares about.

Title: Inked
Author: Eric Smith
Length: 217 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Series or Stand Alone: Unclear, but probably a stand alone
Content appropriate for: Grades 5-8
Format: Digital ARC thank to Bloomsbury via NetGalley
Release Date: January 20, 2015

Three adjectives that describe this book: dark, interesting, disappointing

I was really eager to start Inked. The cover is beautiful and the concept of magical tattoos that move around and determine your future is really cool. Other elements are pretty typical for novels like this, though:
* A career-determining special occasion
* Anxiety about said occasion (what if I don't like what I get?)
* All is not what it seems
* The government is actually evil

So Inked could have gone either way - boring and predictable, or really really cool.

Eric Smith did a moderate job of world and character building. Not enough to give me the full scope of the place and our characters (it's only 217 pages, after all), but enough that I could make sense of what was happening. The plot had a few surprising elements in the first third that really kept my attention.

Inked is full of moral quandaries. I like that in a book. It tackles issues like, "Is it okay to sacrifice a few for the good of many?" and "Is it okay to hurt an innocent person, in order to protect myself?"

Unfortunately, this promising, solid 4-star book, took a steep dive downhill in the final 10%

I've been wrestling with how to explain my issues, without any spoilers. Here's my best shot:
In the final 10%, an interesting moral dilemma arises when Caenum realizes that the good guys might be just as evil as the bad guys. This set-up is a grand opportunity for Eric Smith to grow our character. But, unfortunately, Smith seems to struggle with this tricky situation. The dilemma resolves itself through a series of convenient blackouts and an even more convenient murder (which, apparently, no one feels guilty about). Moments later - we flashforward to an epilogue where everything is peachy keen for the main characters, but the Big Evil Government problem is completely and totally unresolved.

Before reading the Epilogue, I thought maybe Eric Smith was setting up for a sequel where he would take the time to handle all the implications of evil good guys stopped via murder. But, the epilogue has our main characters walling themselves in and, almost, abandoning their goal of stopping the government. Is that the end? Apparently, so.

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