Monday 14 March 2016

REVIEW: Jonathan Janz - Children of the Dark

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Publication Date: 15th March 2016
Pages: 398


A copy of Children of the Dark, by Jonathan Janz, was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the publishers, Sinister Grin Press, in exchange for an honest review. This is said review.

So, you all already know I love to get ARCS from Sinister Grin. Brilliant books, brilliantly put together. The first they sent to me this year, The Black Goat Motorcycle Club, was a perfect example of that. I love getting Jonathan Janz books as well. Fresh and exciting writing. When I got wind a few months ago that Sinister Grin had signed Mr Janz it was an exciting time for me, wondering if I would get sent his stuff as an ARC.

Well would you believe it, I did. So this begs a question then: what is this collaboration going to be like? Is it going to pay off for both author and publisher?

Let’s find out.

Will Burgess is fifteen years old, living in Shadeland. It’s a place with a history.

A couple of histories. One, the most famous serial killer in their part of the USA and two, a history that goes back hundreds of years concerning The Children who, legend has it, live in the caves that stretch underneath most of Shadeland. The first is definite because the killer is in jail. The second has never been proven and is very rarely spoken of.

History is about to be relived though as the serial killer, Carl Padgett, has escaped from prison and no one knows if he is on his way back to Shadeland. Will and his friends, Chris and Barley try not to worry about the escaped convict as they do what teenage boys do and try to woo some girls they think are hot. Problem is those girls already have boyfriends that aren’t very nice.

Problem two is the fact the killer looks like he is indeed on his way to Shadeland. Problem three is the fact there is something else hiding in the hollow.

What follows is a journey for the kids down many paths they could never have imagined or even believed. It’s no longer a question of who will get the girl, but who will get out alive.

There are many characters in this one that I feel are worthy of a mention. Will is obviously the main boy. He is a timid lad and spends most of time playing baseball and looking after his sister, Peach. He has to. His mom is always drunk or sleeping and no great use to anyone. His best friend Chris is also a baseball player and they play together. Barley is the third in the group. The stereotypical heavier guy that they both love but others don’t get. Barley and Chris live on the rich side of town. Will lives out of charity stores.

The girls they are chasing are Mia, Rebecca and Kylie Ann. All beautiful young girls that seem to be decent human beings to boot. Problem is their boyfriends Brad, Kurt and Eric. Three bullies that, to be honest, aren’t very nice in this story but I figure they could settle down if they were given a good hiding themselves.

Peach is Will’s six-year-old sister. Meek and shy and very reliant on her brother, I really loved her she had my heart from the beginning.

Carl Padgett is a serial killer with no heart and no morals and no nothing. Cold is the only word I can use to describe him. He holds many secrets though and is also the key to many of the problems in Shadeland.

There are others that play significant parts in the story but spoiler free Confessions can’t tell you about those ones.

The plot? That’s a hard one. Not complicated, just hard to explain without giving the story away. I have seen it described as a coming of age novel. To a certain extent I can agree with that but after a while this turns into an out and out horror story. It is one of those that has many horror elements to it though.

Psychological, physical, monsters and slasher serial killers. It is about a group of teens growing up as best they can so I guess you can say coming of age. There is a bit of McCammon in it like Boy’s Life. There is a bit of Ronald Kelly in it from Fear. It’s much more than that though and when the horror kicks in I think I would compare it more to Fear.

It is a story of survival ultimately but it is so much deeper than that. Will is from the poor side of town. Some of the bullies pick on that. Some of his mates stick up for him with it. It shows the difference between friends. Same goes for the girls in the story. Nothing makes a difference to them. It’s good to read about some decent human beings for a change. It’s a story about some people’s struggles against adversity of many kinds. Again, Will has a lot of struggles for a fifteen-year-old. Unfortunately, even in real life, he is not alone. I congratulate Mr Janz for highlighting the sort of problems Will has with his mother, sister and missing father. I have noticed in his past couple of books that he is showing how brave he is in tackling real life scenarios in his books in a sensitive and thought provoking way that many an author would be scared to do.

If you have read Jonathan Janz before you will know what to expect from the writing in this book. If you haven’t then you are in for a treat. This writing is just sublime. You cannot look away from the page at times. I made numerous coffees while reading this and many of them were stone cold when I eventually got around to picking them up to drink.

His horror is exquisite. It will scare you in so many ways for so many different reasons. It is what I call intelligent horror. It scares you without you even realising it. There is horror of the mind. There is real life horror, as in, everyday situations that some people don’t even know happen in other people’s lives that will make you very glad for what you have, and make you hope you never end up in those situations.

There are monsters. Real scary monsters. But real scary monsters that are not invincible for a change. Monsters that aren’t like the ones at the end of a level in a computer game that take three hundred hits to kill. They do die, but then, there are a lot of them.

There is a scene in the underground caves that nearly made me sick. Claustrophobia and darkness don’t sit well with me. This is what I mean about how good Mr Janz’s writing is. Many different people will find many different scary things in this book.

I could go on and on about Children of the Dark. It has every ingredient measured out perfectly to give you the ultimate reading experience, be you a horror fan or just a lover of a wonderful story. It’s an old scenario and an old plot if you like but this still feels so fresh. When I read a Janz book I almost feel like he has written it just for me because everything is perfect and you feel as if you become part of the story.

To summarise: horror. Top notch horror. Top notch story writing and storytelling. This is masterful.

Highest possible recommendation.

General rating:

★★★★★ just superb.

Horror rating:

★★★★★ and again.

If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer, then please consider using the links below to buy Children of the Dark or any other books from Jonathan. This not only supports me but also lets me know how many people actually like to buy books after reading my reviews.


Book Synopsis:

Will Burgess is used to hard knocks. Abandoned by his father, son of a drug-addicted mother, and charged with raising his six-year-old sister, Will has far more to worry about than most high school freshmen. To make matters worse, Mia Samuels, the girl of Will’s dreams, is dating his worst enemy, the most sadistic upperclassman at Shadeland High. Will’s troubles, however, are just beginning.

Because one of the nation’s most notorious criminals—the Moonlight Killer—has escaped from prison and is headed straight toward Will’s hometown. And something else is lurking in Savage Hollow, the forest surrounding Will’s rundown house. Something ancient and infinitely evil. When the worst storm of the decade descends on Shadeland, Will and his friends must confront unfathomable horrors. Everyone Will loves—his mother, his little sister, Mia, and his friends—will be threatened.

And very few of them will escape with their lives.

Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, and in a way, that explains everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows "the best horror novel of 2012." The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, "reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub's Ghost Story."

In 2013 Samhain Horror published his novel of vampirism and demonic possession The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species. Of Savage Species Publishers Weekly said, "Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror--Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows--will find much to relish." Jonathan's Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.

Jack Ketchum called his vampire western Dust Devils a "Rousing-good weird western," and his sequel to The Sorrows (Castle of Sorrows) was selected one of 2014's top three novels by Pod of Horror. His newest release is called The Nightmare Girl. He has also written four novellas (Exorcist Road, The Clearing of Travis Coble, Old Order, and Witching Hour Theatre) and several short stories.

His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author's wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true.

And for more about Jonathan, visit his site or find him on social media:

Website - Facebook - Twitter - Goodreads - Amazon Page

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