The Black Tattoo

The Black Tattoo

4.1 59
by Sam Enthoven
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Jack’s best friend, Charlie, is in serious trouble, possessed by an ancient demon called the Scourge who plans to use Charlie to bring about its evil ends—which, unfortunately, involve the destruction of the entire universe.

Now Jack and the butt-kicking, sword-wielding Esme must contend with floating sharks, intelligent jelly, oversized centipedes,

…  See more details below

Overview

Jack’s best friend, Charlie, is in serious trouble, possessed by an ancient demon called the Scourge who plans to use Charlie to bring about its evil ends—which, unfortunately, involve the destruction of the entire universe.

Now Jack and the butt-kicking, sword-wielding Esme must contend with floating sharks, intelligent jelly, oversized centipedes, gladiator pits, and vomiting bats, all for the sake of saving Charlie from the Scourge.

And, hopefully, saving the universe from total and utter annihilation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lee possesses some of the weary working-class grandeur of Michael Caine, shading his reading of Enthoven's debut fantasy novel set in London and the underworld with the occasional broad mannerism, and raising his voice to a goblet-shattering screech for emphasis. Lee is innovative in his voicings, though; he provides some of the slinkier, more seductive characters in Enthoven's book with a baritone boom that will rumble speakers, and other characters banter agreeably with a delicate chirp. This tale of two boys swept up in an ancient secret mingles the magical and the mundane, and Lee superbly handles both elements of the book, comfortably portraying British boys and age-old demons. His performance summons the grandeur of both London and Hell itself, and more than adequately fleshes out Enthoven's characters in all their multifariousness. Lee is a narrator to watch. Ages 9-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
What's it like when your best mate suddenly becomes a superhero? A demon named the Scourge has escaped confinement and plans to destroy the universe. An ancient brotherhood needs help to foil the Scourge's scheme, and recruits 14-year-old Jack and Charlie. Charlie soon becomes the new leader of the brotherhood and discovers he has all kinds of incredible powers. However, the Scourge takes possession of Charlie, and Jack must enter Hell to rescue his friend, with the help of Esme, another teenage member of the brotherhood. In Hell, Jack finds he and Esme are gladiators, expected to fight for their lives for the entertainment of the Emperor of Hell and its horrible and bizarre denizens: lots of rather gory martial arts action ensues. This imaginative tale is clearly meant to be first in a series. Fantasy fans will undoubtedly appreciate all the detailed descriptions of the creatures in Hell, and there's plenty of action—and some humor, too—to keep readers turning the pages. For larger fantasy collections.
Children's Literature - Amie Rose Rotruck
It is not every day that one acquires a new tattoo, especially one that moves! But once this happens to Charlie, his life and the life of his best mate, Jack, will never be the same. The tattoo that Charlie bears came from a demon known as the Scourge, who wants to use Charlie toward his own ends. Charlie and Jack join forces with Esme, a girl trained to fight demons, in order to stop the Scourge. After Esme's father is killed, she, Jack, and Charlie follow the Scourge straight into hell. Once there, Charlie falls deeper under the Scourge's spell, while Esme and Jack try to find a way to defeat the Scourge. While this 500-page fantasy could use some editing at times, and the most interesting character, Esme, does not get the same amount of page time as her male counterparts, it is an entertaining read. Enthoven's vision of Hell and the entities there is very captivating and will keep readers turning pages.
Children's Literature - Patrick Hunter
This fantasy fiction novel about three teens battling an evil entity to save the universe was entertaining through the first third of the book but then meanders through its plot afterward, which helps to dull the pace of the read. Charlie, Jack, and Esme are three teens in London. Through a chance encounter with a stranger, Charlie and Jack discover the Brotherhood, a secret organization whose main purpose is to train its members to battle the Scourge, a demon from Hell who wishes to destroy the universe. Currently, the Brotherhood only has three members: Esme, her father, and Nick. Nick is looking for additional members to bring into the Brotherhood. Through a test, Jack is the one chosen. What is unknown to other members of the Brotherhood is that Nick was secretly harboring the Scourge in his body and has transferred it through the test to Jack. In their journey to track down and defeat the Scourge, the characters make multiple journeys to Hell, which is much different in the story than the human concept of the place. The Scourge's use of Charlie is discovered by all characters and Esme makes a shocking discovery about herself, which leads to the internal strength she needs to defeat the scourge. Jack and Esme are the most well drawn of all the characters. Charlie is little more than a vessel to help propel the story of the destruction of the universe forward. Because he is so paper thin, it is hard to identify and especially sympathize with him. The Black Tattoo could have been a neat, engaging new entry into the fantasy genre but it is stretched out beyond necessity by its introduction of various fantasy creatures and cliffhanger situations that serve little more thanwindow dressing rather than any purpose to the plot. It appears that the only reason that this book is over 400 pages is because Mr. Enthoven wanted to cram in as much as he could, and books from the Harry Potter series are at least that long. A recommended read for only the most diehard of the fantasy fiction set. Reviewer: Patrick Hunter
VOYA - Brenna Shanks
Jack knows that his best friend Charlie is going through a rough patch with his parent's imminent divorce, but when Charlie decides to follow a strange man to a mysterious test, Jack has misgivings. His reservations prove grounded when Charlie passes the test and is declared the leader of a Brotherhood bent on keeping a demon called the Scourge from escaping back to Hell. Jack and Charlie begin training with Raymond and his daughter, Esme, who has been raised to battle the Scourge and assumed she would one day lead the Brotherhood. But all is not well with Charlie, despite his newfound superpowers, and Jack begins to realize that whatever gifts were passed to Charlie come at a price. His new black tattoo seems strangely sentient and mobile. Also Charlie has increasing trouble controlling his anger, and now he has the power to back it up. Meanwhile they must discover who has betrayed the Brotherhood to the Scourge and who can still be trusted to help imprison it again. An ambitious and action-packed adventure, the novel will appeal to those who like martial arts movies as well as epic fantasy tales. Sixteen-year-olds Jack, Charlie, and Esme make an interesting trio, and readers will sympathize with each for different reason as they try to navigate the path between good and evil.
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up
London teen Jack leads a not-very-interesting life. His friend Charlie is none too bright and is blinded by his anger over his parents' divorce. Jack stands by his best mate through thick and thin, even when Charlie, possessed by a demon, crosses into Hell itself. Khentimentu, also known as the Scourge, has been trapped in the roots of an ancient tree for thousands of years by a secret society called The Brotherhood of Sleep. Charlie, thinking he is being recruited into it, unwittingly becomes a host for the escaped Scourge, manifested in a writhing, black tattoo. With Charlie's help, the demon kills all the members of the Brotherhood except the young warrior-woman Esme. When the demon and Charlie escape into Hell, it is up to Jack and Esme to rescue Charlie and save the universe from Khentimentu's evil plan. Enthoven has created an interesting and original universe and a gripping story. Hell is a demon-populated Roman empire at its most decadent, complete with gladiators and an all-powerful emperor. There are a few plot inconsistencies in this hefty book, and scattered Briticisms will momentarily trip up some readers, but overall it is a readable story with an amusing denouement. A good choice for readers ready to move on from Darren Shan's popular "Cirque du Freak" and "Demonata" series (both Little, Brown).
—Anthony C. DoyleCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
How typical: Jack's having a really bad day. When a strange little man approaches Jack and his best friend Charlie to recruit them into an ancient Brotherhood of demon fighters, Charlie says yes. It's soon clear that Charlie's been possessed by the demonic Scourge, who drags him into Hell. Jack follows, for though he's always been a follower, he's determined to rescue his friend. But in Hell, he's a prisoner in a chaotic world, fighting in a demonic gladiator pit, eating (delicious) demon-vomit to survive and unable to get close to Charlie. Slim hope appears when Jack falls in with the demon God (short for Godfrey), who created the earthly dimension out of boredom. With the dubious help of Godfrey and the fighting power of gorgeous warrior-girl Esme, Jack must save both his friend and the universe. While Jack's story lacks coherence, the action-packed world keeps the tension high, and Jack's development from spineless follower to everyday guy willing to save the world is satisfying. (Fantasy. 12-15)

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595141330
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
01/10/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
528
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.36(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

WELCOME TO HELL

Some time later, Charlie opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was the demon.

It was the same black figure he'd chased over the rooftops. The same one that had pretended to die when he'd struck it with magical fireballs-a slim, narrow, but man-shaped thing made out of absolute darkness, its face a shiny black blank. It was looking at him.

"Good," said the Scourge. "You're awake."

"Er . . . yeah," said Charlie.

"Did you sleep well?" The voice came directly into Charlie's head, with a sensation like icy fingertips behind his eyes. Before answering, Charlie sat up. The tattoo was still there in the skin of his arms, but it wasn't moving now; it was still. The room he was in didn't appear to have any walls or ceiling or even a floor that he could see. There was himself, the bed, and the demon: everything else was just featureless white.

"I don't know," he said. "How long was I out for?"

"There's . . . something I want to show you," said the Scourge gently, ignoring the question. "It's a sight that I promise you'll never forget as long as you live." With a smooth, liquid movement, it stood up and offered an ink-black hand. "What do you say?"

Charlie looked at the Scourge's hand.

"All right," he said, and took it.

The demon's touch was cool but firm. Charlie felt a rush of hot air, a sensation like huge black wings closing around him, then-

"There," said the Scourge. "Open your eyes." Because as soon as Charlie had glimpsed what was there, he'd closed them tight before he could stop himself. The demon lifted one of its arms in a wide, sweeping gesture.

"Welcome to Hell," it said.

Charlie looked down at his feet. He was standing, unsupported, on a lip of black stone barely as wide as his trainers. Above him and around him there was nothing but starless sky, warm and thick and strangely still. And in front of him . . .

In front of him, and below him, stretching as far as he could see in any direction, was Hell.

"Buh-buh-" Charlie gibbered.

"Take your time," the Scourge advised. "Take it in slowly."

Charlie did his best, but it was difficult.

It's one of the strangest things about the human mind that, when it sees something really impressive-the Grand Canyon, for instance-the first reaction, often, is simply to dismiss it. "Naaah," says your brain, "it's a backdrop. Painted scenery. Special effects. It's not really there." You have to stand and look for quite a long time sometimes, just to let the realization sink in that what you are looking at is actually there. That what you are looking at really is many millions of times bigger than you. And it doesn't care whether you believe in it or not.

"This place is known as the Needle," said the Scourge conversationally. "It's the highest point of the palace and, therefore, the whole of the realm."

Charlie didn't reply. He was too busy staring.

It was like standing on the summit of a mountain, he decided. Only instead of being made out of rock, the crags and peaks below him were actually buildings. Keeps, turrets, and towers of all shapes and sizes, from slender spires to things like giant cathedrals, all seemed to be jutting nonchalantly from the palace's gargantuan tapering sides. From the foot of it, miles below him, five vast and arrow-straight white-lit lines struck out into the landscape as far as his eyes could see. These lines were linked by smaller curved paths that split the land into a series of roughly concentric rings, broken up into sections by the five great roads. Charlie's attention was immediately caught by a country-size chunk that was the only bit of Hell so far that was anything like what he'd been expecting: the whole section appeared to be made out of flames. The flames were a beautiful rushing red and orange and yellow, and they slid up the walls of the pit that contained them and slipped back down again, heaving and subsiding like coastal sea on a stormy day. At every seventh great convulsion the waves of fire leaped even higher, sending a great gout of flame bursting up into the night sky before it crashed back into itself, leaving blossoming purple flashes on Charlie's retinas as he stood watching, spellbound.

"It could all be yours," said the Scourge quietly.

"What could?"

"All this," said the Scourge, gesturing again. "All Hell." Charlie stopped looking at the sea of fire and turned to look at the demon.

"What are you talking about?" he asked.

"Here," said the Scourge. "I'll show you." Without further warning, it grabbed Charlie's hand-and they stepped off the edge.

Charlie's heart rose in his chest and his breath caught in his lungs as, for a full ten seconds, they plummeted straight down. Past his feet, the sheer black stone blocks of the tower they'd been standing on blurred past with sickening speed. His eyes were streaming, but when he looked ahead he could see the spiked roof of the next-tallest turret rushing up to meet him and-apparently-impale him. A scream pushed its way out of his throat. But it wasn't fear.

It was joy.

"HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" screamed Charlie, or something like it, as, with a pressure that made his insides feel like they were being squeezed flat, he and the demon suddenly leveled out and swooped round the turret. For a wonderful fraction of a second, Charlie actually felt his foot brush the edge of the roof-then they were diving, swimming through the air. The Scourge swung him out to their left, taking him in a wide circle, as the spectacularly fanged and spiked and crenellated and twisted towers of the palace rose to meet them, and pass beneath their feet.

"These are the High Reaches," said the demon, and Charlie heard its voice perfectly clearly even over the din of the rushing air. "From here all Hell's affairs are managed and directed."

They were now level with the highest windows of the palace. What Charlie saw didn't make a lot of sense to him. Up where he was, the turrets all seemed very small-individual structures separated from each other by the yawning spaces below-and they were all different from each other. He glimpsed windows of all shapes and sizes, and all were brightly lit, but he and the Scourge were flying too fast for him to be able to make out any more than a blur.

"This actually isn't the best way to see the palace," said the demon. "To appreciate it fully, one really needs to get away from it a little."

And with that, the roofs dropped away beneath them, and he and the Scourge swung out over the clear skies of Hell.

The night sky was a deep and tender purple-blue, warm and clear apart from occasional tiny wisps of strange cotton wool-like clouds that tickled past them as they continued their strange descent. Charlie gave himself up, letting the demon take him where it would, until the rushing air on his face slowed to a breeze-then, suddenly, they stopped.

Perfectly still, floating in the air, they turned round to face back the way they'd come.

"There," said the Scourge. "Impressive, don't you think?"

And Charlie had to admit, the Scourge was right.

The palace was unquestionably the biggest thing in the whole landscape. It was so big that if he hadn't been told what it was, Charlie wouldn't have been sure it really qualified as a single building. From where he was, hanging suspended high in the air, still holding the demon's hand, Charlie saw his earlier impression confirmed: the palace was more like a mountain than a building, with hundreds, maybe thousands of individual structures seemingly growing out of it in an astonishing profusion, a bewildering and chaotic array. The harder Charlie looked, the more detail there was to find.

So he stopped himself.

A small, thin stream of cloud drifted past: Charlie felt the moisture of it on his face and stuck out his tongue to taste it on his lips. It was salty, like tears.

"So this is Hell," he said, as casually as he could.

The Scourge didn't answer.

"Listen," said Charlie, his voice sounding high and strange in his ears. "Before we go any further, you're going to have to clear a few things up for me."

He took a deep breath.

"First of all, and I'm sorry if this comes out sounding a bit stupid, but-are we dead?"

"No," said the Scourge. "Not dead. On the contrary: for the first time, I think, you are truly alive."

"Sure, whatever," said Charlie, "but . . . well, you know, isn't Hell supposed to be where you go after you're dead? I mean, normally?"

The demon thought about this for a moment.

"Mm," it said finally. "You are referring, perhaps, to some sort of belief system in the place where you come from."

"Sorry?"

"What do your people believe?" asked the Scourge patiently. "What do your people think happens after death?"

"Oh," said Charlie, surprised. He had to think for a moment.

"Well, some of them," he began. "Not me, obviously, but some of them believe that, you know, when you die, there's a couple of possible things that could happen. If you've been good, if you've led a good life, then you go to, er . . . Heaven."

He broke off and looked at the demon, to see if he was getting this across properly. It was impossible to tell.

"It's supposed to be a nice place," said Charlie, doing his best. "You know, eternal happiness. That sort of thing."

"I see," said the Scourge.

"And if you've been bad," said Charlie, "then you go to this other place. A bad place, where bad things happen to you. Fire. Brimstone. Eternal torment or whatever. And that's Hell."

"That is what you believe?" asked the Scourge, with a smile in its voice.

"Not me," said Charlie quickly. "Just, you know-some people."

Slowly at first, but with gathering speed, something strange was happening to the demon: it was trembling. In another moment, it was quaking all over, big shudders running all over its liquid black body.

"What?" asked Charlie. "What is it?"

But then he realized what it was. The Scourge was laughing.

"I'm sorry, Charlie," it said, once it had managed to get itself back under control a little. "But that's very funny."

"Why?" asked Charlie, annoyed.

"I knew your people were primitive, but really," it said, "that's-"

"What?" said Charlie.

The Scourge stopped laughing and looked at him.

There was a pause.

"In backward, unenlightened societies," it said slowly, "it is possible to control people by means of what they believe. This belief system of yours: it's a perfect example."

"Oh yeah? And why's that?"

"Think about how it works," said the Scourge. "If you're good, if you do what you're told, then when you die you'll go to . . . where was it?"

"Heaven," said Charlie.

"Yes," said the demon. "But if you're bad, if you don't do exactly what everyone says is the right thing to do, or behave as you're told to behave, then-"

"You'll go to Hell," finished Charlie.

"Exactly. Charlie," said the Scourge, "you must understand that beliefs like those you've described are for the weak. They make you easy to control, and they can be comforting too: it's so much simpler to make decisions about how to live your life when all the guidelines are set out in front of you. Look at me."

Obediently, Charlie turned to look at the Scourge's face. In the blank shiny blackness that he found there, his own reflection stared back at him.

"The only way to make a decision is of your own free will. You yourself must weigh up the consequences for and against and make your choice accordingly, without anyone else telling you what is right and what is wrong. That is what free will is all about."

Charlie didn't answer; he just stared at himself, reflected in the demon's face.

"There is something," the Scourge began, "that I need you to help me to do. It will not be easy, but the rewards will be great."

"What is it?" asked Charlie.

"I will tell you," said the demon, "but not just yet. I have something else to ask of you first."

"And what's that?"

"Charlie," said the Scourge, "I want you to trust me." Charlie stared. "Trust you?" he echoed. "Trust you? Well, let me think about that for a second. No."

"No?" said the Scourge, surprised.

"Come on!" said Charlie. "What do you think I am - stupid? It's all very well, you coming on like 'the Snowman' and giving me the guided tour now. A little late, though, don't you think?"

"Charlie-"

"You tricked me! You made me think I had superpowers, when all the time you were possessing me! Taking me over! Using me so you could get what you want! And then you . . ." He remembered the moment he'd realized what the demon had done through him. He remembered Esme's face as she'd vowed her revenge. He shuddered.

"Give me one good reason," he said.

"Because I'm offering you the choice," the Scourge replied.

Charlie stared again. "What?"

"You know what I can do, Charlie," said the demon simply. "You know the power I can wield over you. And yet you see that I do not use it."

"So?"

"I think that by the time you have seen what I plan to do," the Scourge explained, "you will want to do it every bit as much as I do. And we can work so much better, I think," it added, "as a team."

It paused.

"Let me be your guide," it said. "Let me show you what I'm planning. Trust me that much at least."

"And if I decide I don't want to help you with whatever you're doing, then what?" asked Charlie. "You'll let me go home?"

"Back to your world?" asked the Scourge, surprised again. "Back to your family, or what's left of it?"

"Hey!" said Charlie.

"I'm sorry," said the demon, "but it seems hard to believe that you'd want to return, with things as they are right now."

"That's not the point!" said Charlie-loudly, because the Scourge had reminded him of something he didn't want to think about.

"Of course," said the Scourge soothingly, "you are free to choose. You have my word." It looked at him, waiting.

Charlie thought about it.

He looked down at Hell, far below him, laid out under his feet as if just for him. He looked at the palace and the surrounding fantastical landscape that spread to the horizon in every direction. No one on Earth had been where he was. No one on Earth had seen what he was seeing. Looking around, Charlie suddenly had a very powerful impression that the whole world-the whole universe, maybe-revolved around where he was standing (or floating, to be strictly accurate).

Then he thought about a Chinese restaurant in London's West End and the last time that he'd seen his father. He thought about the abandoned meal and the things that they'd said to each other-things, in his opinion, that could never be taken back. He thought about his mother, who was probably still waiting for him at home and wondering already where he was. He thought about the hateful mess his father had made of their lives by leaving them the way he had-and he briefly considered whether, frankly, he could really be bothered with any of it.

Stay or go back. Those were his choices.

No contest.

"Okay," said Charlie. "Show me."

Read More

Meet the Author

For the last ten years Sam Enthoven worked as a part-time bookseller, living largely on a diet of instant noodles and parsnips while honing his skills as a writer of thrillers for young people. He is passionately – possibly 'certifiably' – committed to the ideal of "books that make kids want to read." His writing desk is made out of a squashed wardrobe. His favourite pastimes include playing lead guitar with the band Sour Mash Daddy And His Sixty Wives and practising tai chi while listening to skull-cracking drum-and-bass. "Hey," he says, "it works for me." He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >