Author: Wayne Mansfield
Publisher: JMS Books
Cover Artist: Written Ink Designs
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 04/10/2016
Length: Novella (~ 15K-50K)
Nathan Crosby has a gambling addiction that cost him almost everything he owns. When he tries to run out on newcomer Leroy in a backroom poker game, his troubles escalate. Leroy is not what he appears to be, nor does he have any intention of letting Nathan off the hook. On the contrary, he has an extremely interesting way of obtaining all he is owed.
Unfortunately for Nathan, the payment will be far larger than the initial debt. He will be marked by every lie he has ever told, and the punishment won’t end there — he is forced to join a circus peopled with others who have crossed Leroy.
It isn’t all bad, though. He’s introduced to Karl, the circus strongman, whose caravan he shares, and the two develop strong feelings for one another. But is the love of a good man enough to soothe the agony Nathan must endure as part of his punishment? Is there an escape from his bizarre new life? And, if there is an end, will Karl be there with him to enjoy it?
A sort of odd, interesting novella about a feckless gay man with a gambling problem who has the misfortune to have a run-in with a minion of Hell. Nathan Crosby, caught trying to cheat the demon out of his winnings, is covered with tattoos that seethe with dark magic. Dropped into a traveling carnival, Nathan is forced to face the consequences of his own actions.
“Tattooed” is a fascinating premise, and competently written, but there no great depth to the story, which could have been epic. Nathan is not a particularly sympathetic character, but that’s not a bad thing, necessarily. The romantic element that appears helps us like Nathan more, but this is another aspect of the narrative that could have been intensified to create more emotional punch. Mansfield choose characters that are intriguing, but I’d loved to have heard more of the stories of Nathan’s fellow carnival denizens. After all, it’s a veritable Carnival of the Damned. “Tattooed” is essentially a dark, adult fairy tale. I very much liked the basic story, but found myself wishing it could have been expanded into a more profound telling of the tale of a young man’s battle to save his soul.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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