My aim with The Black Tattoo was simple. I wanted to write a book so all-consumingly exciting that its readers would have to have the book physically taken out of their hands whenever it was time to do things like eat or sleep. To me, this meant a harder-edged, less fluffy fantasy style – influenced by games, comics and movies as well as the traditional canon. It meant swordfights and flying kung fu: the fights in this book have been checked over by genuine martial artists to give them the kind of authenticity and 'crunch' that I was looking for. It also meant over five years of work – persuading friends who are teachers to test early drafts out on their classes, taking their advice to get the elements of the book just right, and finally refining the whole thing down to its purest and most potent form.
'Not to brag, but I started this book at 12 P.M. and I finished this book in 5 hours. I need to go to sleep, man... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHh!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My face! pustules of pus underneath my eyes! Your book was so good I'm in trouble for staying up too late. THANKS A LOT SAM! No, seriously, dude, this is the best book I've read in two years. You know, if all books were this good, I bet more kids would be reading.'
Mark, 12, from the Guestbook
'As I came to the end of the book I was very upset as I was desperate to continue reading. I know in reviews I am meant to be critical but I really can't be about The Black Tattoo. It was thoroughly amazing and nearly every sentence had me on the edge of my seat. It was too good for words and I can't explain any more without giving the plot away so I'll just leave you all to read it for yourselves. Have fun reading. I know you will. I did.'
'This story is suited for boys because of its real life attitudes of boys and how boys act when put in these positions, to give you that question of "what if you were in this situation, what would you do?" I must say that this is an excellent story, I hope this one is to be shared with everyone.'
'The martial arts scenes, the magic scenes, the black tattoo scenes where the tattoo rushes up his arms and his neck making him have enhanced super powers – every second is described so well that it is as if you see it frame by frame. This reader thinks it was BRILLIANT!'
'I have to say I'm impressed, Sam's book is just brilliant. The description of all the different creatures and places is just wonderful. The story is exciting and the mystery is gripping, when you start you just have to read on. The characters are brilliant and, even though very strange things are happening to him, you can relate to Jack's feelings about everything that's happened. I think The Black Tattoo could be a real success, and I think Sam could be the next Anthony Horowitz.'
Charlie L, 11
''This is a great read, it's action-packed, it's funny... what more could you want in a book?'
Victoria S, 15, Red House Books
'...The stuff of teenage dreams, here executed with pace and panache.'
Kate Agnew, The Guardian
'If you're in the mood for a fun adventure with lots of cool monsters, tons of fighting, a trip to Hell and the saving of the universe thanks to a lowly human, don't miss it!'
Johnny Butane, Dread Central
'There are no limits to the inventiveness or imagination on which Enthoven has drawn in inventing this Stygian landscape and its inhabitants, but what some readers will find just as engaging is the development of the relationships among the three young people at the centre of the narrative. Imagine a literary world where Philip Pullman meets Darren Shan and you have some of the flavour of this ambitious and lengthy novel.'
Robert Dunbar, Books for Keeps
'A right rollocking read all round. ;)'
Jaq D, Islington Education Library Service
'This is a playful, well-structured story which will keep youngsters hooked from first to last.'
Nadia Crandall, Write Away!
'...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?'
Kathryn Ramage, Lincoln Heights Literary Society
'The Black Tattoo is a feast. It is packed with rewarding subplots and memorable characters, including a brave protagonist and one of the nastiest villains you'll find in recent fantasy fiction.'
Nick Capo, Assistant Professor of English, Illinois College from Armchair Interviews
"It's a cracking read, I loved it and found it pacey and engaging, so much so that I kept sneaking upstairs to read a bit more when I was supposed to be busy with other things. Jack's a great non-hero in his self-depreciating, does-everything-wrong way and his eventual rise to saviour of the human race - well almost - is very satisfying. Esme's an interesting character, unlike any girl in kids fiction -that I can think of, anyway- and her gradual evolvement and understanding of her heritage is well done. I'm a huge fan of Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and I thought there were echoes of Douglas Adams' humour in the characterisation of God - which I loved- and some of the more surreal aspects of Hell. It was great. I think that Hell will really appeal to boys, particularly the vomit-as-food angle, fabulous!"
Amanda C, mother of three sons
'Enthoven's movie/game/graphic novel approach to his book reminded me of a story that tackled a similar theme, involving an angry youth granted superpowers only to wreak uncontrollable havoc: Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira. Here, the message that there are no shortcuts to achievement and respect, and that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is, is delivered with a one-two punch to the solar plexus and a sturdy roundhouse kick to the head. If you're ready to get your game on, The Black Tattoo is all the next-gen action you'll need.'
Thomas M Wagner, www.sfreviews.net
'A wonderful story of heroism and friendship.'
Rachel K., www.readersclub.org
'The juggling act between humour and horror is a tricky one: take your eye off the ball for too long, and all credibility can end up on the floor. Sam Enthoven gets away with it. What he may lack in originality of plot, he makes up for in sheer freshness and enthusiasm. He's clearly loving telling this story - there are some pleasing twists - and his energy creeps into the words on every page.'
Philip Ardagh, The Guardian
'Enthoven's novel firmly establishes him as a breakout talent within the genre. With heart-stopping action, supernatural elements, and a cast of characters spanning ranging from the your average Earth-dwelling human to the vermins of Hell, The Black Tattoo is sure to delight the devoted fantasy readers of all ages and tween and teens alike.'
'Brave heroes, secret societies, dastardly villains, monsters and a touch of magic as well… Whether you're looking for a fun, light-hearted fantasy adventure, or a cool back-to-school read, The Black Tattoo has something for everyone.'
Natalie Clubb, Dreamwatch
'I really liked this book. When I first got it and saw how many pages there were I thought it would be long and boring. But it was packed with adventure, suspense and mystery. Sam Enthoven did a great job of the keeping the novel moving. I could really connect with the characters and their emotions. It also presents unconventional, interesting viewpoints about demons, etc. Overall, I thought it was a great book.'
Katherine, 16, www.flamingnet.com
'For his first time out, Enthoven has crafted a fast-paced page turner that reads very much like watching a movie. The balance of fantasy/horror/action is just right. Think The Golden Compass meets The Matrix. An odd combination, no doubt, but Enthoven makes it believable and likable.'
'I was hooked from page one. Work had to wait, I couldn't put the book down, and I had to continue reading…'
Debra Gaynor, www.readerviews.com
'The Black Tattoo has anger, reality, the world itself in peril and slimy-darkness monsters, and that all works for me. There is a certain amount of wish-I-were-ten-years-oldishness going on here…'
Rick Kleffel, www.trashotron.com
'This is the most fantastic read! I was totally gripped. It's got everything you could possibly want from a teenage fantasy epic in one great big satisfying package. Not only does it keep you on the edge of your seat with its fast-paced action, the quality of writing really makes this a special read. It is so inventive and self-assured, I gasped with delight at the brilliant characterisation and the staggeringly well-conceived worlds that Sam has created. As you can tell I really like it! I couldn't be more enthusiastic! I also think it has the potential to be a big hit. It ticks all the boxes – so fingers crossed!'
Philippa Banks, Marketing, Random House Children's Books UK
'It's a cracking, pacy read and I think will really appeal across the sexes and across a fairly broad teenage age range as well. With some exposure I really think this could be the big surprise next year. In fact, out of all of next year's schedule, this is the one book I'm backing to be our next Amulet or Eragon.'
Aslan Byrne, International, RHCB UK
'Sardonic demons, vomiting bats, world class martial arts - what more do you want in a book? You want action, humour and brilliant characterisation, that's what and Sam Enthoven gives the reader exactly that in his superb Black Tattoo.'
Rachel Armstrong, Publicity, RHCB UK
'Even having read The Black Tattoo about seven times during editing, I still love it! It's a fantastic romp through the depths of Hell, populated by demons and monster gladiators. Fast, funny and totally original - it's one not to be missed!'
Lucy Walker, Editorial, RHCB UK
'An exhilarating cross between The Matrix and Hellboy, this is an impressive debut. Battles with powerful magic, demonic possession and vomiting bats combine to produce an action-packed and entertaining adventure [that] should go down well with the PlayStation generation.'
Becky Stradwick, Children's Buyer, Borders UK
More comments to be added as they come in!
'Vomiting bats? I'm sold.'
** Neil Gaiman has specifically asked me to point out that he has not actually read the copy of The Black Tattoo I sent yet.