So I’m going to post a review of an indie book every Sunday (hopefully) as a way of sharing what I’ve been reading and spreading the word!
To start off the new rotation, I present to you Inked, by Eric Smith.
Inked (Eric Smith)
Genre according to Amazon: fantasy, sword and sorcery, coming of age.
Length (print): 217 pages.
How I found it: recommendation on Twitter.
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.
Amazon Rating: 4.1 stars (35 customer reviews) at the time of article publication.
Caution: some spoilers ahead, though I’ll do my best to not reveal the ending.
First impression: I was excited about Inked right from the start. The cover art is beautiful and the blurb promises a lot of exciting adventure. I read the free sample on Amazon, and that was enough to convince me to buy it.
The highlights of Inked lie mostly in the first 3rd of the story, which, in my opinion, was a good display of entertaining writing.
- Fantastic beginning: Inked has one of the best opening chapters I’ve read in some time. Right away we meet Caenum (the protagonist) and Dreya (his friend). Their personalities are vibrant and different, and there’s enough playful tension between them to have me hooked.
- Efficient pacing: the pacing in the early parts of the story is fantastic. Things clip along so that I was never bored, but neither was I overwhelmed with action sequences.
- Entertainment value: simply put, the story is fun.
- Kenzi’s introduction: Kenzi’s development from an arrogant Scribe to a vulnerable Conduit is well crafted despite the fact that it happens within the first few chapters.
- Molivar: even though his appearances are few, Molivar is one of my favorite characters. He’s mysterious, dark, and even though he’s clearly bad, I kinda liked him.
The best: in my opinion, the best thing Inked has going for it is the early relationship between Caenum and Dreya. I felt their mutual interest since day one, but they’re not the typical ‘in love’ couple. They act like genuine friends, and that made me really look forward to their development in the later stages of the book.
Despite the strong beginning, at around the 40% mark (in ebook terms), Inked starts to unwind. By the time the third act rolls around, it’s completely fallen apart.
- Mediocre characters: with the (partial) exception of Dreya, Kenzi, and Caenum’s grandmother, all the characters (especially secondary) were pretty boring and cliche. I didn’t connect with any of them. They felt like plot devices more than people.
- Poor editing: the first 3rd of the book was polished. The last two 3rds felt like the editor just stopped caring. Repetitive, distracting sentence constructions and some blaring typos kept me from engaging with the story.
- Plot tropes: Inked relied on a handful of plot tropes to carry the story forward, which would have been fine if they’d been developed beyond their trope status. They weren’t.
- Reunion of the protagonist with a long-lost, mysterious father.
- Discovery of magic powers within oneself.
- Elemental abilities distributed between the main characters (earth, fire, electricity, ice, etc.).
- Protagonist living with a relative because of missing/dead parents.
- Poor dialogue: throughout most of the story (worse later on) the dialogue felt forced and unnatural.
- Crammed plot: for such a short book, there was too much going on. I never quite cared about the plot itself because it simply tried to do too much in so little time.
- Confusing plot elements: in the 217 pages of the book, we’re introduced to Inked people, Scribes, Conduits, the Citadel, Citadel Guard, Freedman, Unprinted, and more. Each ‘faction’ has their place in society, but I never quite got what differentiated them from each other. Some use magic, some can’t (I think), some don’t know it, some do…it’s a bit of a mess.
- Disappointing relationship development: remember how I said I was looking forward to the progression of Caenum and Dreya’s relationship? Yeah…there is none. At the end of the book, they haven’t really changed in terms of character development. What you see on page 1 is what you get at the end. What could have been the best part of the novel turned out to be…well, not much at all.
Conclusion: Inked had a lot of potential and a promising beginning. The story quickly spiraled into cliches, and the characters weren’t much better. Top it all off with some poor editing and what felt like lazy writing, and you get a pretty disappointing product. I’m not sure how Inked manages to hold a 4.1 star rating on Amazon. Kudos to the cover artist, though.
My final rating: 2/5 stars.
(I paid for my copy of Inked and wrote this review without involvement in any exchange or deals. Thoughts and opinions are my own. Yours may differ, and that’s fine. Feel free to drop a comment below!)