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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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08/02/2006 Archived Entry: "Book Review: The Black Tattoo"

The Black Tattoo
By Sam Enthoven
Published by Razorbill (Penguin Group)
Publication date: October 5, 2006

Review by Kathryn Ramage

A demon known as the Scourge has escaped from an ancient Order, the Brotherhood of Sleep, which has kept him imprisoned for thousands of years. When this demon possesses a mortal, it appears on its victim as an elaborate black tattoo that moves around the surface of the skin.

With the Scourge running loose in modern-day London and the numbers of the Brotherhood of Sleep growing too small to handle its recapture, one of the Brotherhood approaches two fourteen-year-old boys, Jack and Charlie... but is recruitment what he really has in mind? The boys are brought back to the Brotherhood's headquarters, introduced to the remaining members of the Order--including one very pretty girl around their own age named Esme; one suspects that she's the reason they stay and listen to this fantastic tale of escaped demons, and agree to be tested. During this test, something is transferred into Charlie, and now the boy bears a black tattoo, and has gained some extraordinary powers, such as the abilities to defy the laws of physics and dominate other people's minds.

Yep: the Scourge has possessed Charlie.

According to the Brotherhood, the Scourge's fiendish plan is to return to Hell through a gateway called the Fracture (which is currently in the basement of a London pub) and release an army of demons to overrun the Earth. The Scourge has already made his way to the Fracture and is about to enter when the Brotherhood catches up with him; via Charlie, the Scourge puts up a fight that ends with both Charlie and Jack entering the Fracture.

This is only the first third of the book and the least exciting part of it. Things really pick after the kids go to Hell. Once there, we learn that Scourge's plan wasn't to overrun the Earth with demons, but to put an end to the entire universe by waking the sleeping Dragon that created it. To accomplish this, Scourge needs Charlie. And Jack and Esme have to fight hordes of Hells' most bizarre denizens in gladiatorial-type combat not only to try and save Charlie, but to stay alive themselves. The situation is frequently grotesque. The children's lives, not to mention the existence of the universe, are in danger every minute. But all the same, it's a hoot to read. Enthoven's Hell is reminiscent of Clive Barker's or Michael Moorcock's, but with an offbeat, dry sense of humor that carries through even the most horrific moments. Throw in a visit or two from God and a chat with the sleeping Dragon--what more could you ask for in a young-adult fantasy novel?

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