The Black Tattoo by Sam Enthoven
Being a fan of the macabre as well as the illustrator of the cover John Jude Pelancar, I jumped at the opportunity to read this book. However, thirty pages in and I knew there was reason to be concerned. Perhaps it is best to begin with the good rather than bad. Enthoven created a highly imaginative world that plays and twists the various concepts of demonic possession and hell in some very original ways. His young hero is rather likeable, particularly as one views his own struggle with feeling "ordinary" and left out of things. Kind of the opposite of your regular story in which the character feels like an oddball.
That said, I was amazed at the lack of empathy created in the characters. I didn't care about any of them. They were unconvincing, flat, static, and contrived. Enthoven filled their speech-bubble like dialogue with nothing but fluff, devoid of anything that would actually connect the reader to the characters. The character with the most emotional resonance was rarely in the story and was too often portrayed as evil rather than a victim. Perhaps that is what the author intended, but it is not how he came across within the emotional resonance. As a result of this poor characterization, the plot suffered as well, often feeling jump and random. Weird things felt placed simply for the sake of being weird. Some of the concepts, like a secret society could have been interesting but instead felt rather glib and cliched. Nothing wrong with using such societies, but an author has to make it their own. It was an imaginitive effort, but in the end a boring and long one with characters you cannot connect to.