The Black Tattoo
by Sam Enthoven
Razorbill/Penguin; October 2006; 512 pp.; $18.99 HC
Core Audience: 14+; Teen lovers of Gothic drama, the Matrix, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Strengths: Plenty of dark humor, demons, and Matrix-like kung-fu
At 512 pages, this book is not for the faint of heart, but it serves up generous portions of all of the dark imagery that gothic adventure fans will love. Not being a fan of this genre generally, I was pleasantly surprised at this book’s ability to draw me in and keep me interested.
The story focuses on three main characters: Charlie, who is chosen and then possessed by a demon who has designs on taking over the underworld; Jack, Charlie’s best friend who follows Charlie into the underworld to save him; and Esme, a girl trained from childhood to fight the forces of evil, who joins the other two to fulfill her destiny. (Esme, I might add, has an amazing arsenal of special powers, and all of the best kung-fu sequences.) The book takes its name from a tattoo that grows on Charlie when he is possessed, and roils over his skin with sufficient creepiness to keep even the most jaded teens reading. Basically, the novel reads like a screenplay, with plenty of visuals, action, and a fast moving plot that doesn’t ask too many questions. It’s a classic good –vs– evil story, with hell the battleground, and plenty of gooey humor and irony. I especially liked the character of Jack, who has that lovely Jimmy Stewart air of being a normal guy caught up in events he can’t quite believe.
This story won’t change the world, but I thought it was pretty fun, if you can embrace all of the demonic imagery.