Book Reviews

INKED: A Review of Eric Smith’s Awesomeness

Have you ever gotten a tattoo that ended up defining you?

In Caenum’s world, everyone has. And he’s terrified of what his upcoming Ink will tell him.

INKED by Eric Smith is a young adult fantasy novel about a world where all citizens get Inked on their 18th birthday. When you’re Inked, whatever shows up on your skin tells you what your profession will be for the rest of your life. Did flowers and plants start growing up your arm in beautiful, artful ink? Looks like you’re going to be a florist.

If this sounds restrictive to you, Caenum thought so, too, and immediately wants to run away to avoid being Inked and have a chance at choosing his own path. The only problem is, if you don’t get Inked, you’re considered an Unprinted, which basically translates to “social pariah on the run.” Oh, and Caenum gets involved with someone who does magic on their own WITHOUT any Ink, and this is a problem for all sorts of reasons I loved finding out over the course of their adventure.

I absolutely loved the whole concept of the magic ink in this book. The descriptions of how it moved on your body and even reacted to the world (for instance, if you had flowers, your tattoo would mimic the plants’ death in cold weather). The novel keeps chucking unknown enemies and unlikely friends at you until you’re screaming at your Kindle and trying not to chuck it at the wall, but in a good way. Because yes, this book is only available digitally 🙂

To give you an idea of Eric’s process, I got the chance to do an email interview with him because he’s an awesome person who will talk about books until he’s blue in the face. ❤

What made you want to write INKED?

So a few years ago, I was lucky enough to work at Quirk Books, where I did fun marketing things for books like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. While working on that though, I knew it was important to read in the genre I wanted to promote. After-all, you can’t be part of a community if you aren’t actually part of that community, you know? So I read a bunch of YA, and just totally fell in love with it. I always wanted to write, but hadn’t found my place. Thanks to all that, I had.

Who’s your favorite character and why?

Kenzi. He probably has the widest arc of all the characters in the story, including when we get to Branded. Villain to good guy to morally ambiguous. He wrestles a lot with his past and what it means for his future, which is something I think a lot of us deal with.

Did anything in your life influence the plot of INKED?

Yes! Two things. One, video games. I always loved the golden age of Square Enix RPGs, like Final Fantasy III, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana… and one thing that constantly happens in those kind of games, is we see some kind of ruling power doing messed up things with magic, and the people suffer because of it. And, you have a rag-tag bunch of heroes who rise up to fight back against it all. Inked follows a similar path, and was really influenced by those.

Of course, it was also influenced by scores of adult and YA fantasy that I’ve read through my life. I mean, you have to read voraciously to be any kind of writer. But those games had such a huge impact.

The other thing, was a tattoo artist friend back in Philadelphia. He gave me the little quotation marks I have on my wrists. He made an off comment one night, about all his tattoos, and how he’d “always be a tattoo artist” because of them. And it sort of gave me this lightbulb moment, about tattoos forcing you into a way of life. Choosing your destiny.

Now, of course, I know that’s not the case in real life. 🙂 You can have tattoos galore and work anywhere. I mean, I sure do. But it was something I wanted to explore in the story. Brian, if you’re reading this. It’s your fault.

What’s one thing you want readers to take away from the book?

That your destiny isn’t chosen for you. We are who are make ourselves. I feel like a lot of teenagers have to deal with that pressure from family, to maybe study a certain thing, pursue a certain career. That they are trapped. I wanted them to feel like they could break free from all that. That’s what Inked is about. Fighting to be you, as opposed to what someone else thinks you should be.

What are you most excited about regarding its sequel, BRANDED?

For the story to be finished! 🙂 Inked shows you the world, the struggles, and the start of the fight. Branded finishes it. Takes you away from just the few places you see in the first book and into the wider realm. I hope people like the bigger world!


In case you didn’t catch that, INKED is only the first in a duology of the world. BRANDED, the sequel, will be out on May 23rd! BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. You can go ahead and preorder it on Amazon if you so desire. (I did!)


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