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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
The Black Tattoo
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on 9 January 2013
This book isn't at all what I expected. I thought it was going to be all dark and serious. Instead it falls somewhere closer to the writing of Terry Brookes or Douglas Adams (minus the sci-fi). It is funny. Yes, yes, the universe is in danger of being snuffed out in one abortive act of finality and everyone is in danger, but the characters (Jack especially) are still able to recognise the absurdity of the situation and let an exasperated explicative slip. Jack's insistence that most things in his life are just 'typical,' even when everything around him is most assuredly not is an effective running gag that made me laugh more than once.

Granted, he's a pretty useless hero. I'll admit that for much of the book I lent toward agreeing with other reviewers who disliked him because of this. Even after hints that he might have finally been given a few extra abilities of his own nothing materialises. He remains totally and utterly normal. But toward the the end I started to suspect this was the point. He is the most powerless individual in all of Hell. He is simply below notice of the movers and shakers of the underworld. But in the end he is also unquestionably the hero. Such courage as he has is almost superhuman by itself, more so since there is nothing but unassuming backbone to support it.

Esme is just plain awesome. I always love a well-honed warrior and just go gaga over a female one. I suppose I should at least mention Charlie. He's a git. He just is.

I got fairly tired of all of the ridiculous descriptions of the different demons. A whole section of the middle seemed dedicated to this. The story seemed to lag a little, bogged down by one description after another. Similarly there seemed to be a lot of 'great black wings wrapping around them' going on. It seems that one description apparently covers a lot of different sounds. All-in-all, I enjoyed it.
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on 19 October 2006
I gave this book to my 10 year old son to read at school. It has been passed on to lots of his friends and they all think it is fantastic! Challenging, fun, exciting and dark - perfect for 10 year olds, and older ones too!
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VINE VOICEon 28 September 2007
I really enjoyed this book - Enthoven tells his story with a lot of pace, humour and enthusiasm and it really made me want to turn the pages to find out more. At heart, it's a standard good -versus- evil plot. A secret society of magically and physically gifted humans have been working to keep a demon known as The Scourge contained within a magical prison. Unfortunately, someone has let it out and the society's head, Nick, realises that he needs new recruits to help them lock it back up again. He picks Charlie and Jack, apparently at random, from the street. Charlie, who is failing to deal with the break-up of his parents' marriage, passes a test and develops magical powers, evidenced by the sudden appearance of a sinister black tattoo on his body. He takes over as leader of the group (which is a surprise to Esme, who has been raised by one of the group's members and trained all her life to assume leadership. Jack is just ordinary and trails after his magically gifted friends who have super-fighting skills. Together, they work to recapture The Scourge, who is revealed to have a sinister plan all of his own and who is picking off the remaining members of the society with surprising ease. The battle against him takes all three teenagers to Hell.

I loved Enthoven's depiction of London - he's comfortable with his location and has his characters move around it with ease. I also enjoyed his depiction of Hell, which was something I had never seen before (effectively, he makes Hell a living location, pitching it on the back of a gigantic dragon). He doesn't stint on the gore and ew! factor (there's a particularly horrifying scene involving Jack drinking demon bat vomit that's lovingly drawn out and makes you laugh even as it makes you gag) and he has a wide variety of demonic characters, some good - some not so good, who are vividly brought to life (my favourite being the Chinj who helps Jack). I also thought that he brilliantly captures the inarticulate dialogue between teenage boys, particularly when they're discussing emotional issues.

However, there are flaws. I'm not sure whether Enthoven really strikes a balance between his three characters and there are times when each seems a little stereotypical (Charlie with his anger, Esme with her anger and Jack with his ordinariness) and I think that some readers may find the introduction of Charlie and Jack into the new world of demon hunting to be a little too pat whilst the despatch of the various older members of the society at times feels like a checklist of death. The biggest problem however is the ending. Without wishing to give too much away, Jack goes through a major change in the book that seems to have just gone away or not been dealt with by the book's end (even though Enthoven's taken care to establish which Jack is in trouble with his new situation) and we're never really told what the effects of this change are, beyond some broad allusions to telepathy. I was also left confused as to what was going to happen with Charlie and Esme at the end, given the way in which they each achieve their aims and the discoveries they make in the process. Enthoven doesn't really examine the aftereffects at all, certainly not for Charlie and I would have liked to see some form of resolution - although the final chapter clearly leaves the way open for further books and more adventures. Enthoven also seems to leave the way open for a love triangle between the three and I really hope he doesn't go down that route because it's been done to death in YA fantasy and I think would serve to throw up more characterisation problems than it would solve
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 August 2008
Jack Ferrell wishes he would have listened to his instincts, to have made his friend, Charlie, turn away. But since Charlie was already having a bad time, what with his dad leaving, he went along with it.

He met Nick, a guy who just casually asked if the boys wanted to take a test that they supposedly were fit for. Without hesitation, Charlie accepted, making Nick lead them to the beautiful Esme. Turns out Nick is part of a brotherhood that had to look after a demon that was captured, making sure that it didn't escape. Unfortunately, they weren't successful, since one of their members betrayed them and let the demon take over his body.

Which means Charlie and Jack were their new recruits.

Even though Charlie was showing great progress, developing powers, and getting close to defeating the demon, something unexpected happens and he lands himself in Hell.

Jack then finds himself in Hell, too, even though he would rather be somewhere, anywhere else. It is the perfect opportunity to save his friend. At least he has Esme by his side, but can he save Charlie before the demon fully controls him -- or will this be a battle both boys will lose?

THE BLACK TATTOO isn't only creative but also adventurous and gripping. Every page is full of detail, causing the reader to feel like they are on the adventure with Jack, which is a scary thought. Sam Enthoven is in a league of his own, and definitely knows how to create a thriller that would be a blockbuster hit.

Reviewed by: Randstostipher "tallnlankyrn" Nguyen
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on 6 December 2010
When I first saw this book in hardback I was intrigued by the cover, but I'm not a fan of hardback books so I waited till it was available in paperback. I didn't realise it was more of a teen fiction genre than adult based but it was highly enjoyable. The characters were well fleshed out, the settings bizarre and imaginative, the plot twisted here and there but ultimately found it's way to the ending. The use of different sized fonts to illustrate certain characters voices was very good.

I'd recommend this to anyone, not just teenagers, the story moves at a nice pace although some adults may find it a bit below them in a literary sense. It is worthy of a sequel which I would also read. Good stuff with some interesting subjects - religion and God/Hell etc being given a fresh perspective. Grab it, read it, but don't take it too seriously.
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on 6 October 2007
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and shared it with all my friends after reading! It reminded me of how much I enjoy adventure stories, I enjoyed it as much as the phillip pullman trilogy his dark materials: the story is of a different type, but it's ability to grip me until the end was the same, as was the blend of great characters, humour and fantasy. What an adventure!
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on 18 December 2012
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on 28 April 2016
My granddaughter really enjoyed this book
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on 22 June 2011
Wow, this was just awful; I really didn't enjoy reading this at all.

I thought the writing was poor and seemed to talk down to the reader, assuming they are idiots. I cannot think of a single thing I enjoyed about this book. I reluctantly finished it but was very disappointed, especially as the description on the back sounded good.

AVOID, unless you really are a glutton for reading poor literature.
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on 23 April 2015
Very pleased
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