I bought a copy of Sam Enthoven‘s The Black Tattoo because one of the very first reviews of my own book compared the two. Honestly, after reading it, the only similarity I see between the two books is that we both used the Japanese terminology for the swords our characters heave about.
Description from Goodreads:
Jack’s best mate, Charlie, has always been effortlessly cool. When Charlie wakes up one day and finds a mysterious, moving black tattoo on his back, it’s a clear sign that he’s even cooler than Jack thought. To top it off, Charlie has got super powers also.
Or does he?
Jack soon learns the terrifying truth: Charlie’s incredible powers come from an age-old demon called the Scourge, who is using Charlie to bring about its evil master plan.
When the Scourge vanishes with Charlie, Jack and Esme, a girl with super powers of her own, follow their friend from the streets of London into Hell itself, where they face horrors that may well cost them their lives.
Slightly spoilerish Review:
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. As defenceless as he is (and knows he is) he twice marches into the bowels of Hell to rescues his friends…”and apparently the universe.” He willingly offers his life in place of his best friend in order to correct the actions of another and save the world. Such courage 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.