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 is a novelist, screenwriter, and film teacher. He’s represented for film and television by Ryan Lewis (executive producer of Bird Box). His work has been championed by authors like Josh Malerman, Caroline Kepnes, Stephen Graham Jones, Joe R. Lansdale, and Brian Keene. His ghost story The Siren and the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice nominee for Best Horror. Additionally, his novels Children of the Dark and The Dark Game were chosen by Booklist and Library Journal as Top Ten Horror Books of the Year. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children. You can sign up for his newsletter (http://jonathanjanz.us12.list-manage....), and you can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.
I wish all horror novels were like this! Or, at least most of them . . .
This book was great! Suspenseful and action-packed throughout. The narrative flowed perfectly, keeping me engaged the whole time. There were enough plot twists to keep M. Night Shyamalan happy. Horror fans should be very pleased with this one - I can comfortably say I recommend this book to you if you like horror.
Carl Padgett says:
A note about the writing: The writing is very basic, but I like that. Not lots of long, descriptive paragraphs, which I think would have slowed the place. Instead there is a lot of dialogue and quick paragraphs that give you only what you need. I think some might complain about this claiming it is too simplistic and not "literary" enough, but I thought it was perfect for this story.
A note about the setting: I went into this not knowing the setting, but it turns out that the story takes place in central Indiana, which is where I live. At one point they mentioned the south side of Indianapolis and that was where I was sitting at the time reading it! Because of this, I could very easily connect to the environment.
One final note with a spoiler:
Here is Pumpkinhead from the Pumpkinhead movie series - after you read this, you will know why I have added this here. Tell me if I am right or not!?
In Will Burgess, Jonathan Janz crafts a sympathetic lead. Will's father died years ago and his mother is a pill-popper, leaving Will to raise his six year old sister, Peach. On a side note, Peach is adorable. Will plays baseball, has a couple of good friends, and is ass over tea kettle for Mia, the girlfriend of his arch-enemy.
When Carl Padgett busts out of jail, the whole town goes into lock down. It just so happens that this coincides with the time Mia invites Will to hang with her and her friends in the woods. See where this is going? I haven't even mentioned the titular Children of the Dark yet!
After seeing a strange creature in the woods, Will's friend Barley tells him of The Children, giant evil monsters supposedly living underground in the cave system below Shadeland. They reminded me of eight foot tall versions of Gollum from Lord of the Rings.
Anyway, Janz does a great job juggling the suspense of having a killer on the loose, the creeping horror of monsters in the woods, and the everyday horrors of being a teenager in love. When everything finally comes together, the book goes into survival horror mode and no one is safe!
As I read this on the plane to San Francisco, I kept looking at the other passengers, wondering why they were so calm with monsters on the loose and a serial killer serial killing people.
Apart from a twist I saw coming about ten pages into the book, I have nothing bad to say about this book. It's a gripping read and well worth the kindle price of only $2.99. I'll definitely be reading more Jonathan Janz. Four out of five stars.
Jonathan Janz is the real deal! Granted, I've come to this conclusion after reading only 3 of his books , but it's hard to ignore the fact that the guy can write.
In this coming-of-age tale, I could not help but to root for the young Will Burgess, who has to take care of Peach, (his younger sister), and his mom, a pill popping addict. On top of that, his dad is no longer in the picture, and he often finds himself a target of the local bullies.
Mr. Janz has the ability, just like Stephen King, to make you care deeply about his characters, only to put them through the wringer shortly thereafter. This story reminded me a lot of King's work, specifically The Body, (aka Stand By Me), and It. I cared for Will and his friends just as I cared for Beverly and Richie of the Losers Club. Unfortunately for Will and his buddies, the ending of It seems like a party compared to the fate of the kids in Children of the Dark.
After a slightly slow start, the pace of the story took off and it was all I could do to hold on. Every time I thought I had a handle on where the plot was going, it turned around completely, which made it difficult to put this book down. You know, that whole "I'll just read one more chapter" type deal and before you know it, it's 2:00 am? Yeah, that's where this tale took me and I loved it. I can't say anything more about the plot because it should be revealed as the author intended. I CAN say that this book was a blast and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel. How 'bout it, Jonathan? Children of the Dark II? You know you want to!
My highest recommendation to fans of coming-of-age stories, extreme horror, creature features, serial killers, cannibals and basically any fan of dark fiction, in general. There's something here for every horror fan to sink his/her teeth into. BEWARE the Children of the Dark!
*In the interests of full disclosure: I "know" Jonathan Janz, (online only), and consider him a friend. Neither this or the fact that Sinister Grin provided me a free e-ARC of this story, affected my honest review.*
Will Burgess and his friends are trying to cope with life in general, but they seem to have other worries when legends become all too real for their town of Shadeland as creatures that live in the caverns surrounding the town start making their presence known. On top of that, a serial killer has escaped and he is also making his way toward the town which when everything comes together it is going to become survival for the town of Shadeland and lots of blood running through the streets!
That is about all I can give on a small backstory as if you want to know more then you will need to read the book!
The story of the book is wrapped around a "coming of age" theme that resonates throughout the book but also brings the horrors alive on the page as the kids in the town have to confront more than just bullies.
There was a little world building in the beginning of the book, but then things start happening quickly and it all goes to hell in a handbasket quick as the pace picks up along with some edge of the seat tension! Giving this book five "Gory Greatness" stars!
Will Burgess is a kid used to the rough side of life. Raising his little sister with a mom who is mentally missing in action thanks to pharmaceutical fire, and an absentee father. Trying to survive his first year of high school, targeted by bullies....including one particularly vicious thug who happens to be dating the girl he can't get out of his head or his heart. More than enough for any teenager.......but things are about to take a turn for the worst, with an escaped serial killer heading in his direction.......and something far worse lurking out in the woods.
Janz takes the coming of age story into horror territory with impressive results, melding his already well established ability to create characters that ring true, characters with heart and soul, that you can't help but feel empathy with, and his prodigious talent for monster mayhem.....and big props from this reviewer for his take on mythological creatures that have been personal favorites of mine since the first horror story I've ever read......the one that made me a fan of dark fiction for life.
This one reminded me of Dan Simmons' SUMMER OF NIGHT......but stripped down, built for speed....without giving up any of the horsepower. This one burns rubber, folks, and you'll want to take it for a spin. Pre-order your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01B...
Highest possible recommendation.
I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Jonathan Janz, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, and Sinister Grin Press all made it possible for my group the NightWorms to read this book together, so a big thank you is due to all of these folks for supplying our group of 7 horror lovers with copies in exchange for an honest review.
This is my first book by Jonathan Janz, and I'm definitely a fan! Children of the Dark was a tense, gore filled, coming of age horror novel that I read very late into the night. I couldn't put this one down.
Will Burgess and his friends Chris and Barley have the same problems as most 15-year-olds. Chris and Will have crushes on two of the prettiest girls in school who also happen to have boyfriends that constantly want to kick their asses. Will, however, has a much harder life than his pals. His father is gone, and his mother can barely function due to her addiction to pain medication. Will is left to take care of his 6-year-old sister Peach pretty much on his own, and he deeply resents his mother for it. He loves his little sister more than anything though, and being forced to take care of her has created a bond that can never be broken.
One night the girls Mia and Rebecca tell Chris that they will be camping in their parent's yard, so the boys should stop by to visit. With hormones raging, Will, Chris, and Barely go to meet their crushes, and they end up swimming together in a nearby creek. Will's crush and his interactions with Mia really took me back to being a 15-year-old, and what it felt like to have a crush on someone and then have that crush reciprocated. These scenes are such nostalgic fun, but suddenly Mia sees a face in the woods, a pale face with green eyes, and soon everyone in Savage Hollow has a lot more to worry about than bullies and crushes. Because there is something lurking in the woods. And on top of that, one of the nation's most notorious serial killers has escaped from prison, and he's heading straight for Will's hometown.
I was invested in this book right from the beginning. Will's friendship with Chris and Barley is truly special, and his love for his little sister Peach is so pure. These are characters that you quickly learn to love, and when they start to be in peril, I was practically racing through the pages to find out the fate of each character.
Sure there are some tropes here. The bad guys are really bad, the cops are inept to the point of rage, and the parents are initially clueless, but Janz takes this story to places I never would have expected. He GOES THERE, and once he does, he doesn't let up. I love how fearless his writing in this book is. He knows there have to be consequences, he knows that not everyone is going to survive the evil in the woods, and he makes the situation as realistic as you can when dealing with ancient cave dwelling monsters.
There was a point while I was reading that I realized I had reached the place where you don't stop, no matter how late it is because you HAVE to know what happened. Janz holds nothing back, and parts of this book leave you reeling and feeling a bit breathless. And those are the best kinds of books. The ones where you shout out loud when something terrible and unexpected happens because you are so invested in the characters. And Janz writes fantastic characters. This is a coming of age creature feature that I recommend to everyone who enjoys horror that doesn't hold back. I can't wait to read more from Janz.
This is the pre-sequel, to Savage Species. Will Burgess and his two best buddies, are dealing with being bullied at school and teenage crushes. Will is growing up without a father and a mother who is addicted to painkillers. Will also has the responsibility of taking care of his younger sister, Peach. Carl Padgett, who is known as The Moonlight Killer, has escaped from jail and could be headed for the town of Shadeland. Padgett, use to live in this town and the people are scared that he may return, seeking revenge. Legend has it, that blood sucking creatures, live in the caves and the caverns that surround the town. These creatures, are known as the children. The children, will not be denied their taste for the flesh of a human. Will is about to enter the gates of hell and there is no turn back. The tales, is really intense and has plenty of blood and guts. Janz, does a excellent job developing the main character Will. I ask the author recently, if there might be a Children of the Dark 2. This was part of his answer. Will Burgess and his story is far from done. In one way or another, his tale is going to be continued. There is a good chance that the characters from Children of the Dark will collide with story of Savage Species. For the readers who devoured Children of the Dark, this is a good thing. The only hard thing is the wait. I highly recommend this book.
Author Jonathan Janz continues to amaze me with his "growth" in writing style, as shown in each successive book he pens. While CHILDREN OF THE DARK is a prequel of events leading up to his five-part novel, SAVAGE SPECIES, it has its own completely distinctive "feel". Janz has shown his versatility in his array of story lines and characters all along. CHILDREN OF THE DARK is definitely a horror novel, but also very much a "coming-of-age" tale, in the vein of Robert McCammon's BOY'S LIFE.
I have always been impressed with the depth of this author's characterization. Wether dealing with a large cast of main characters, or those with shorter--but no less important--roles, I find it very easy to see the individual identity of each. These "people" are not two-dimensional stereotypes, but complex personalities. In one case, Will Burgess is internally giving us his views on the motivating force guiding one of his neighbors: "...I think it was the fragility of life that compelled . . . to volunteer, to get the little ones to understand that it wasn't worth it to take chances."
This story stands out in so many ways, but especially in how we go through the process of growing up--maturing--along with Will and his friends. Unfortunately, real life lessons are often unpleasant, and unfair to so many people for a variety of reasons.
"Why . . . did sweet little people . . . have to feel such terrible things? Why did such a good-hearted, loving girl get treated like dirt?"
CHILDREN OF THE DARK touched on so many subjects, on all levels. This novel really showcases Janz' talent in writing--not just the horrific elements--but the more emotional, sensitive issues as well. He's not afraid to look beyond the facade of what most people see and judge others by, and show us what's REALLY behind the curtain. Rich or poor, addict or law-enforcer--everybody has a side hidden from public view.
I always look forward to a new Jonathan Janz book, and once again, he's raised the bar to new heights.
This book read very much like an R.L. Stine book to me. If that's what I had been expecting, I would probably have loved this book. That's one of the very few drawbacks of Goodreads for me. I see what friends think of a book and then expect exactly that. Sometimes I forget that we all read differently and end up disappointed. It's almost unfair to authors because I am no longer judging their work, I am weighing it against expectation and opinion.
This was definitely a page-turner, and it was a very suspenseful story, but I rolled my eyes so many times as I read that they were tired each time I put it down. Again, if I was looking for this type of book, my reaction would have been different, but this was so unrealistic. I can suspend disbelief with the rest of them, I mean I'm Stephen King's biggest fan (no, not THAT fan!), so obviously I love a good yarn, but I prefer that the events surrounding the unrealistic parts be almost hyper-realistic so that my suspension of disbelief is effortless.
Janz allows the authorities to act in such unrealistic ways that I just couldn't buy it. Local law is unabashedly biased and just plain wrong, not to mention stupid, and make no efforts to disguise this bias, and then we have the higher up authorities that are so much better at seeing the truth, but then share their observations with children. Will, our hero of the tale, is very responsible and capable, but is still a teenager. He simply wouldn't be taken into the confidence of authority that easily.
I will say that the relationships Janz created between Will and his little sister Peach and especially between Will and his friends, were terrific. Kids can love so much deeper and without question. Janz is very good at painting that particular picture. I just wish he had been a little more accurate with the landscape of this tale.
Thank you to the author, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi and Sinister Grin Press for Setting up the Night Worms crew with copies of this book in exchange for honest reviews!
There is no greater joy as a book worm than the feeling of finishing an amazing novel knowing that the author has *plenty* more to read. I will enthusiastically consider myself a Janz Junkie from here on out. *Non-spoiler review* Janz does an amazing job introducing his main character, 15 year old Will, to his readers. I invested into his character immediately and I say this in a lot of reviews but anytime I'm invested in the characters, it instantly makes a horror story that much more terrifying because the stakes are high. I'm a very emotional reader and so any threat to my beloved protagonists becomes heart pounding for *me*. And this book is jammed packed with threatening situations--everything from a shady home life, to bullies, to a serial killer and even some unexplained, evil activity lurking around the woods surrounding our Will's small town. The pace of the story is damn near perfect--Janz brings us back to a nostalgic time in our lives, a season where summer nights were long and full of so much magic & potential. He spends time developing relationships and backstory, just really building on the layers of story so that when we get to the point where the conflict starts brewing, this book is IMPOSSIBLE to put down. And let me tell you, (without spoilers) there were several situations that got my heart racing--I'm not entirely sure what freaked me out the most, the ugly side of the human nature Janz peels back or the creature-feature-esque storytelling...all of these things coming to a head built up enormous amounts of delicious tension. About 100 pages from the end, I started feeling that sense of dread, where I know the book is almost over but I'm nowhere near ready to say goodbye to the way this book made me feel: equal parts fear and love. I read an interview of the author on a friend's blog and there is a sequel for this book which makes me positively glowing with book worm delight and eager anticipation. In the meantime, Janz has more stories to read so I can occupy myself with all of that while I wait impatiently for more Children of the Dark. Buy this book now and read it so that you can roll around on the ground in childish excitement for book two with me!!
Children of the Dark feels like an 80's horror movie complete with pesky inquisitive teens, a serial killer on the loose, and a small town police force who are incompetent at best. Oh, and there's a healthy dose of green eyed monsters to scare the crap out of the characters too.
Whilst I enjoyed the story, it's the characters that really shined in this one. Jonathan Janz has a real knack of writing believable and well rounded characters, perhaps to the same degree as Joe R Lansdale and those who appear in Children of the Dark are no different.
There's plenty of gory scenes stock standard for the monster sub horror genre so the squeamish reader beware, personally, I think they were well written and 'on-theme'.
My rating: 3/5 stars. Children of the Dark doesn't bring anything particularly new to the table but it's still a fun dish to dine on. Fingers crossed for a sequel.
Confession time: I’ve had several of Jonathan Janz’s prior novels on my Kindle for months now, all unread, and so my first experience with this author comes courtesy of this ARC for Children of the Dark courtesy of the man himself. I’ve neglected reading Janz’s prior stuff and now feel like a giant fucking idiot for not having dived into those books sooner. Brian Keene gets a cover blurb here saying, “Janz is one of my new favorites.” Well, Mr. Keene, this book put me well over the moon and I think I can safely say he’s now one of my new favorites, too.
So, what is Children of the Dark? Simple answer – it’s a fucking amazing creature feature horror romp.
Longer answer – it’s a smorgasbord of a horror mishmash. There’s a serial killer, murder, monsters, and mayhem – oh my! So much murder and mayhem.
Children of the Dark is a brutal coming of age tale, with a trio of fifteen year old’s squaring off against their hometown of Shadeland’s urban legend, the eerily and inappropriately named Children. These suckers are huge and dwell in a network of caverns and caves dotting Shadeland’s woods, where our brave kids have a tree fort and square off against bullies, and have midnight swims with the girls they’re crushing hard on. At least until news breaks of a serial killer on the loose, and one of said girls goes missing.
What follows is a fast-paced, frenetic, heart-breaking read. It’s harrowing and tough, populated with incompetent local police with heads firmly up their own asses, and some of the most well-written teenagers since Stephen King’s The Body. Janz knows how to write, man, and he wrings every scene sublimely for maximum impact, whether it’s to tug at the heartstrings or wow you with gory creature-feature violence.
This book gets a solid A+, 5-stars, I want-slash-demand a sequel immediately rating from me. Highly recommended
(By the way, this book is evidently a prequel of sorts to Savage Species, but each book covers different ground and characters. At about a quarter of the way into my reading of Children of the Dark, I bought Savage Species because I already wanted more Janz and more Children in my life. But it’s worth noting there is plenty of wiggle room to get another book in this series, and I WANT Children of the Dark II pronto!)
[Note: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.]
Children of the Dark By: Jonathan Janz Narrated by: Matt Godfrey This book has so many different levels of horror! Just when I thought I have listed all the horrors in this book, I remember other ways this book uses horror! Great characters, the good ones are good and the bad ones, well, I wanted to throw away my morals and choke someone! The world building is great, I could picture the town and the hollows and more! Very little time in the book to get bored, something tense or terrifying is usually going on or you know might happen soon. That anticipated soon comes true but always unpredictable, never what you expected. This was a great horror book! Narration is excellent!
"There was definitely something wrong here. Something alien to the Hollow. Something hostile."
Not for a very long time have I literally yelled at a book because I'm on edge for what is coming. This one had me flying through to find out what would happen to poor Will, Peach, Chris, Mia and all the rest of these poor kids. Will Burgess is a character who will stick with me, this kid goes through hell and still manages to try to be and do the best he can. Do yourself a favor, read this damn book!!!
Children of the Dark is the third novel I have read by Jonathan Janz. I’m not sure if it is my favorite thus far, because everything I have read by him has really been very good. Intelligent, thoughtful, and witty, Janz has quickly become one of my new favorite authors. My only regret is how long it took me from first hearing his name, about a year ago, to actually getting around to reading one of his books. I’m so glad that I did.
A prequel of sorts to Savage Species (which I haven’t read but shall be rectifying soon), Children of the Dark takes place in the small town of Shadeland. Small town or not, life is a far cry from The Waltons for 15-year-old Will Burgess. His father walked out, his mother is a drug addict who sleeps all of the time, and Will is left to be the sole caretaker of his much younger sister, Peach. Many people call this a coming of age story but it’s more than that. Will was already more adult than most of the adults in his town to begin with. To tell you that it’s just a story about Will would be to sell you short. It’s a story about people and all of their flaws as much as it is about monsters. It’s the story of a town and all of the dirty secrets that lie within.
The story admittedly starts out a tad slow but it gives you the foundation that every good story needs to have any sort of depth. It’s the difference between this being just another cliché teen monster story and giving you characters that you can relate with, characters who could very well be you. Whether from experience or exceptional storytelling, Jonathan Janz is well acquainted with the human condition and the pain that comes with it. He is also very adept at painting for you something out of your worst nightmares, whether it is a serial killer on the hunt or monsters prowling about the woods. Could a town possibly be so unfortunate to attract both? The answer is yes and the catalyst may be more surprising than the results.
Jonathan Janz, as always, writes a good story. What I love about it is that he makes his characters real and his monsters believable. You want the good guys to survive but the bad ones are human enough that there is no satisfaction in their death and that to me is the story of humanity. People are never black and white. A story is never one-dimensional. Children of the Dark could be your town.
I received this copy as an e-ARC from Sinister Grin Press and Hook of a Book Media & Publicity in exchange for an honest review.
My first trip down Janz halls. Children of the Dark starts as a coming-of-age tale that is masterfully spun. If you don't come to care about these characters in the first half of this novel, there's something wrong with you. (But don't worry, there's something wrong with me too).
One of my biggest gripes with the horror genre is that gore and scares often tend to overshadow character development, and yet without giving us a reason to care about the characters it's impossible for us to feel afraid for them. Janz takes his time setting up a great cast that feel remarkably real, so that when the horror begins you have a reason to sit up and take notice.
The second half of this novel was a completely different beast from the first, and while this is where the payoff comes for us horror junkies, there were moments where it felt a little too much and dipped into familiar tropes that could have been avoided. Still a quite stellar experience, and a book I would definitely recommend. Looking forward to revisiting more of the Janz hallways soon.
Ho-ly.....crap. I could not put this book down. Every time I did I would just reach for it again.
Will Burgess is a high school freshman who plays great baseball and has a crush on a girl. Unfortunately, timing is everything and he's got other things to worry about, an escaped serial killer who eats his victims and....the Children.
Somehow Jonathan Janz manages to squeeze everything into this book: coming of age, friendship, teenage crush, family, serial killer, gore and oh yeah.....monsters. This was a wild ride! Janz gives you enough detail in the beginning of the book to fill you in on all the family drama while at the same time adding just enough of a backdrop of terror to get the reader going. Then before you know it, the adrenaline pumped action begins and you're sucked in. I really, really liked this book! My only question now is.................book 2??
Big thanks to Jonathan Janz, Sinister Grin and Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi for providing copies of Children of the Dark to all the Night Worms to read and review!
When I first started Children of the Dark, I loved it. I loved the premise, I loved the narration, and I loved that is was from a high school perspective. It felt authentic and that's something I look for in a book. I want things to be BELIEVABLE even if they are not real. There were a few times where I was scared and had to switch to a different book before bed. Towards the end, I felt the "battle" scenes drug on a bit. I'm not much of a fight scene lover if I'm being honest. I get bored quite quickly. I just want to know who wins! Overall, I ended up really liking it. It's a coming of age story with monsters, what horror fan isnt a sucker for that?
First off, I want to thank Jonathan Janz and Sinister Grin for hooking us Nightworms up with free signed copies of this novel to review. It means a lot. Mr. Janz seems like a cool guy, and we follow each other on Twitter.
I really do not want to write this review, so I will keep it as short and painless as possible.
Maybe it’s me. It’s probably me. My fellow Nightworms loved this book, but . . . I didn’t like it. A couple of things stuck out: the story did not scare me (and since this is marketed as horror, I consider that a strike), and I felt the characters were . . . well, pretty stupid. I don’t enjoy reading about stupid people. They just seem to bumble from point A to B. The kids, the adults, all of them. I didn’t dislike any of the main characters, not really, but I couldn’t sympathize with them either, and I was clearly supposed to. The main character, Will, has a penchant for melodrama all over the place (at least, in his own musings), and I guess it makes sense considering his home life. But I just couldn’t care about him. His will-they-won’t-they thing with Mia is annoying, his friends are cardboard cutouts, the main villain is a letdown. He’s supposed to be scary, but his dialogue had me laughing out loud in places. So cheesy!
I was expecting to love this book. I went into it wanting to be blown away. I wasn’t, and that’s okay; different strokes, and all that. This sucker is getting rave reviews and I’m glad for the author and the publisher. I will be checking out Janz’s other books — this was maybe a fluke — but I must give this two stars. I suspect many horror fans will enjoy this, but I did not. Sad Cody.
Wow! This book was edge of your seat good! The characters are great and felt real. The setting was good, you could imagine it to be your small town or any small town. We spend a little time bonding with the characters before the monsters show up. And they aren’t vampires! Far, far scarier. Once they make their appearance, it’s a blood bath after that. They have a hunger that never ends. I was really cheering for the characters in this book. It doesn’t end the way you think it will. I wanted the story to keep going, to stay with them but we are left with a sad ending. With room for a book 2, hopefully.
Jonathan Janz is a veritable authorial genius. That's not flattery, Gentle Readers: that's fact. He is a genius of prose, and a genius of literate horror. I don't know how much time he spends on a book, but each gem is freshly polished and perfect. In my mind is a virtual library of Mr. Janz, because once I've read one, it remains forever with me. [Take, for example, THE CLEARING OF TRAVIS COBLE. I read it in 2013, and it STILL wakes me, terrified. ]
CHILDREN OF THE DARK, quite simply, is going to be THE BEST HORROR OF 2016.
Here I find myself writing again about the work of author Jonathan Janz. I restrain myself from going so far as to say, the great Jonathan Janz, but just barely. Every book I've read by Janz to date has been an experience to cherish. His writing is fresh, even when he's taking on an old trope, and his mastery of language is picture perfect, engaging, and captivating. And each time I finish one of his books I feel like I'm beaming with a satisfied glow, having just encountered something groundbreaking and entirely original. But I also find myself wondering, with a guy like Janz who is not only a great writer but a prolific one, where does it end. Where does the font of ideas and originality run dry? I don't have the answer to that question, I hope it's never, but I know it doesn't end here with his newest horror novel, CHILDREN OF THE DARK.
CHILDREN OF THE DARK is, get ready for it, a serial killer/creature feature/coming of age story. Yes you read that right. And that's not to say that it just has minor elements of the three themes mixed in with the story. They are all major elements of the novel, interwoven throughout the narrative with grace and style, and done so with resounding success. It's probably a good thing nobody told me that before going into this because my response likely would have been, "Get the hell outa here." I would never have believed that anyone could pull this off, not unless it was a "Scary Movie" style parody or something of that nature. But Janz proves me wrong with CHILDREN OF THE DARK.
"The week I saw seventeen people die didn’t begin with blood, monsters, or a sadistic serial killer. It all began with a baseball game."
Thus begins this incredible read, and though it might not begin with all that stuff, don't despair, it's coming soon. That opening passage hooked me right out of the starting gate and the rest of the story didn't fail to reel me in. Jonathan Janz approaches storytelling with almost palpable alacrity and, though his stories are black as night and often brutally violent, you can tell that he loves the process. No way could he do it as well as he does without a strong measure of love involved. And the things he loves the most are his characters.
Some authors build their stories through setting, plot, and theme, then shape their characters around those elements, and while Janz certainly utilizes those things--couldn't build a story without them--they aren't his primary objective. That honor goes to his characters. Jonathan builds characters with the best of the best of them and his story rises up organically from that foundation, not the other way around. It becomes blatantly obvious very early in most Janz novels that he absolutely adores his darlings. They are large as life, flesh and blood creations that you feel for and bleed for. You share their traumas and successes, cheer for them when they're winning and cry for them when they suffer. But the fact that he loves his characters doesn't mean he'll hesitate to murder them, often in delightfully gruesome fashion, if the story requires it. And with Janz, the story requires it quite often.
Which brings me to the next set of elements that I really dig about this story: monsters, murderers, and generous helpings of blood, despair, and outright terror. Anyone who's read Jonathan's book, SAVAGE SPECIES, will likely recognize the monsters of the inhuman variety, which is not to say you need to have read that book. In fact, if I were to recommend a reading sequence, I would recommend this one first. Janz's monsters are not your garden variety monsters, vampires, werewolves, etc., though he's handled those quite well in other books. These monsters are stinking, hulking, amoral green eyed horrors like nothing you've ever seen before and twice as scary. And his human monster, Carl Padgett, is no less frightening, and definitely no less original, for there is a certain trait about this serial killer that you've never seen before either. You'll have to read the book to discover what that trait is. Suffice it to say, it will come as a big surprise when you discover it.
I've written about the horror of Jonathan Janz so many times, I fear I might repeat myself, or overwhelm myself with cliches, but it's difficult not to. His characters are so rock solid and real, his setting, pace and mood are always perfect, and there's never any filler. Every single word of every single paragraph has a purpose that helps to drive the story. On top of that, he's a master of dialogue and his character interactions tend to drive the story as much as any other aspect of his writing, possibly even more:
“I didn’t see him,” I said. “Well, I saw a shape, but it was sort of blurry. And it was dark.” “So it could have been anybody.” “Well, it—” “Or nobody.” I’m afraid my face went blank. “Excuse me?” ���Well, if you didn’t see who it was, how do you know she was kidnapped?” “I saw her dragged off the trail.” “By who?” “I told you, I don’t—” “Or maybe you were being a little too forward and...”
Those exchanges feel so natural and flow so well that you find yourself "listening" avidly to every word, soaking in the information without too much conscious effort.
Words like excellent, outstanding, unsurpassed, etc., have been used by reviewers--myself included--so many times as to feel like tired old cliches. They also seem to have been invented for the purpose of describing the work of authors like Stephen King, Charlee Jacob, and Peter Straub. Oh, and Jonathan Janz too. I'm not exaggerating or indulging in hyperbole when I say that. I've said it before, and I will continue to say it. Janz rates with the best of the best in the horror community and I will continue to read everything he publishes. You should do so too. CHILDREN OF THE DARK is the best coming of age story I've read since McCammon's, BOYS LIFE, and I can't recommend it enough.
Children of the Dark by Jonathan Janz is one of my favorite types of books! Why's that? WELL, let me just tell you. It combines so many things I look forward to in a horror novel: coming of age / kids being kids, serial killers, supernatural elements, etc. It was such a fun read and evoked all kinds of nostalgia the way The Monster Squad, Goonies, and even Stranger Things can all do as movies or TV shows. Janz creates a group of friends that reminds me of The Loser's Club from IT and the kids in Dan Simmons' Summer of Night. I have been told that this book also gives some readers slight Boy's Life vibes written by Robert McCammon, but since I have not read that yet, I will just have to trust their opinions!
If the summary here on Goodreads or Amazon does not sound like something you are already dying to read then I don't know what else to say! Janz does not disappoint with his storytelling skills and ability to build up characters. He is able to put you, as the reader, smack dab in the middle of Savage Hollow and in the midst of all the horrific chaos that is happening.
The narrative flowed so perfectly and kept me engaged. It was always entertaining and an incredible blend of horror and thriller. I even liked what Janz did with the chapter titles in this one. They were usually broken down into a small list of three items which were basically high-level categories/topics for what the chapter was going to be about. So each chapter title hooked you wanting to know in detail what was about to happen. I never wanted to take a break from reading this book - but I am glad that I also was able to enjoy it over a few days as opposed to devouring it in one long sitting. Soaking this story in over multiple days really was fantastic and gave me something else to look forward to each day after work before my husband would come home from his job.
Aside from supernatural horror and how terrible humanity can also be, Janz touches on the concept of family a lot. Will has been fatherless in life. His mother is an addict in the worst way. And he has been forced to take grow up too fast and take care of his younger sister, Peach, because there is no one else. I loved this aspect of the overall story and it was just another creative way that Janz makes it personal and connects to the reader, making this story even more real.
A huge thank you to Jonathan Janz, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, and Sinister Grin Press for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review. And the copies were signed and inscribed which makes the treat even sweeter! AND I was able to discuss and bond over my group of Night Worms over yet another incredible book! 5 out of 5 stars and I highly recommend this book to EVERYONE.
This is an amazing book! It is the first one I have read by this author, but it definitely won't be the last. I stayed up way too late reading "just one more chapter". It is tense, exciting, action packed and suspenseful. It is a coming of age story about a 15 year old boy and his friends with one part serial killer, one part monster and one part tragedy. I loved the characters and the author really made me care about Will and his little sister, Peach. I also loved the ending. I thought it was perfect and gave me goosebumps. I hope Janz continues the story in another book because I would read it for sure! 5 stars for me and a great way to start the reading year.
Children of the Dark is the worst book I've read in years, with sub-YA prose, boring stock characters, and not an ounce of originality. If you had told me it was the self-published debut horror novel of a high school student, I would have believed you (and I would have pictured a middling sophomore, not a talented senior). The fact that Jonathan Janz isn't some amateur but is in fact an author of multiple well-regarded horror works is extremely uplifting, since it means you can be a successful writer in the modern day even if you don't have a scrap of talent, so long as you're capable of regurgitating genre cliches.
Usually in my reviews I try to analyze the various elements of a book in a structured way, but you know what? Children of the Dark isn't worth it. I'm just going to dump some thoughts (many of which contain spoilers):
* The story takes place in Shadeland, with the main character living next to Savage Hollow, because maybe I was being generous calling it high school writing. * Mia and Rebecca are toeing the line of cheating on their boyfriends with Will and Chris, respectively, but I guess we’re not supposed to really think about this since the only character to bring it up is the stock “hot but a bitch” character. * The numerous horror references Janz drops throughout Children of the Dark lack subtlety—a character doesn’t just throw a DVD case at another character, Janz adds that it’s a DVD case for “a horror movie called The Descent,” thrown at a friend wearing a “black CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE t-shirt, a reference to the Friday the 13th movies” in a room with a Hannibal Lecter poster. * Somehow the main character doesn’t know that the Moonlight Killer used to work in his hometown, despite the fact that everyone would know this, especially his true crime-obsessed friend Barley who only exists to dump exposition. * Will’s bullies never use the fact that he’s the son of a serial killer against him, which means they somehow don’t know either even though Will used to be named after the killer. It’s never explained how his pill-addicted mom kept that under wraps. * The book repeatedly introduces characters to serve as cannon fodder, most notably the state troopers who are introduced only to be killed off two chapters later. Not that the characters that are around longer are any less flat. * The monsters awoke because of the opening of a state park, namely the “preliminary digging” done for the park. Really, the best Janz could think up was a state park, the last place where there would be a lot of construction? Why not have it be mining or fracking that wakes the monsters? At least that would make sense. * “Phones and power lines are down” says the police chief to explain why he doesn’t call for help. Literally two pages later the chief has to explain the same thing again. Similarly, a hospital orderly discusses his niece, then in the same conversation a page later (where no other family member has been mentioned) the orderly asks “remember that niece I told you about?” How does Janz think memory works? * Will is a frustratingly incompetent protagonist, pulling the classic horror protagonist flubs of leaving behind his weapon, not making sure the killer is dead, etc. These cliches aren’t twisted in an interesting way, they’re played straight. The monsters are also incredibly incompetent, and many are happy to just watch what’s going on when they could easily be killing the characters. * Well, I should clarify, they could easily be killing certain characters. A single monster can take out three armed state troopers, but the scrawny fifteen year old protagonist is a match for one of them, and in combination with a six year old holding a carpet cutter a monster is shown to be at a disadvantage. * The monsters apparently only show up where Will happens to be. It’s only after he stops at some downed power cables that the creatures attack that location. Likewise, four clueless teenagers have apparently been wandering in the woods for hours without a problem, until Will shows up, shortly after which they’re attacked. It doesn’t make sense, and smacks of Janz not thinking the fictional scenario through. * Not clear how the drawing communicated that one type of monster is five times stronger than another type of monster. * When Will is rescuing Peach she is not complying as he would like and Janz writes the following from Will’s perspective: “God, I thought. Was this what it was like to be a parent?” Did Janz straight up not remember the beginning of his own book, which establishes at length that Will has been acting as Peach’s parent for YEARS because their mother is too much of an addict to perform the role? This is perhaps the most baffling piece of bad writing in the book. * Throughout the final action scenes, time sometimes slows down in ways that make no sense. While the characters are being chased, only seconds away from being caught, they have time to exchange multiple sentences of dialogue. When Mia is literally within the reach of a monster, Will has time to tie a rope around himself, tie it firmly to his treehouse, and then leap down to her rescue, all before the supernaturally fast creature grabs her. * During the book’s climax the action pauses so that Janz can recount the “kerosene controversy” to justify why the treehouse is stocked with exactly what is needed to fight off a pack of monsters, which not only kills the flow of the scene, but furthermore the explanation isn’t necessary. The kerosene is there for narrative convenience, don’t draw attention to it by trying to justify the absurdity.
I fear that with Children of the Dark I’ve stumbled into some weird literary subgroup, since this book has largely gotten high ratings and positive reviews despite being awful in almost every way. Maybe people like it because it’s familiar, and doesn’t confuse them with any novelty or good writing? Janz is clearly a horror fan, but being a fan is not nearly enough to make you a good horror writer. 1/5, and going forward I’m going to avoid anything put out by Sinister Grin Press like the plague.
Update: OHHH MY GAHHH!!!!! THERE’S GOING TO BE A SEQUEL!?! Eeeekkkk!!! I’m so stoked!!!
Hell YESSSS!!! I really enjoyed the heck out of this book. Coming-of-age horror stories are always fun to read. What happens when you take young-love, best buddies and malicious bullies and then add in a serial killer on the loose, creatures hanging around the town’s forest and the “storm of the century” barreling down on you.....??? I’ll tell you what you get........You get ONE HELL OF AN INTENSE story!!!!! There was a magnitude of savagery when everything collided. I nearly found myself hyperventilating over the intensity of it all. But.......wait!!!! Just when you’ve calmed yourself down, and think “okay, it’s over.” ....IT’S NOT!!! You’re left there with this ambiguous ending!!! It’s madness, I tell ya! ABSOLUTE MADNESS!! AND I NEED MORE!
And THAT, my friends, is what happens when you’ve just read a kick ass book.
This is only the second book I’ve read by Janz, and I CAN NOT wait to read more.
Somehow it seems I've rated this book in my sleep, because I don't remember doing it at all! Perhaps one of 'The Children' did it, clicking five stars with their unnaturally long, pallid fingers ...
Bloody. HELL. This was a fantastic read. Granted, the first half was a little slow, but it was worth waiting as the characters were built up and the reader is made to really care about Will and his little sister. Then, Janz changes gear, really ratcheting up the action and scaring the pants off you with the vivid descriptions of the 'Children' creatures. Man, they are CREEPY. And gross, and horrifying and just brilliant, I loved them!
Also, the ending was not what I expected at all. But I like that. Is there a sequel?!
3.5 Stars I really enjoyed the setup for this novel because I am a sucker for stories involving neglectful parents. The main character and his little sister were very likeable characters. The story blends together realistic and supernatural horror, which have the novel a wider audience appeal. I often struggle with these classic “group of boys coming of age by fighting evil” and I just don't think this story was for me. I also found the writing style, clunky at times with some awkward dialogue. So while I didn't personally love it, I would still recommend it to readers who enjoy narratives in the vein of IT and Stranger Things.