Jonathan Janz “Wolf Land” Review

Posted: January 6, 2016 in Reviews, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

wolf-land

BOOK INFO

Length: 314 Pages

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Release Date: November 3, 2015

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of the Wolf Land Blog Tour

Jonathan Janz is one of those authors who I have always heard great things about, both from other readers and horror authors, so I am a little embarrassed to admit that this is the first book of his I have read. After hearing tons of praise for his work and watching his excellent interview on Monster Men, I knew that I had to read one of his books. So when I was invited to join the blog tour for his latest Samhain Horror novel Wolf Land, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with his work. 

The novel focuses on a group of classmates from Lakeview gearing up for their ten-year high school reunion with a bonfire in the woods, a booze-fueled blowout just like when they were teenagers. Savannah is nervous about seeing her old flame Mike Freehafer, who has returned to town haunted by a devastating tragedy and a failed professional baseball career that ended their relationship. A trio of best friends – Weezer, Glenn, and Duane – are simply trying to have a good time by having a few drinks and maybe settling an old feud. As the party kicks into gear, it seems the worst thing the party-goers have to deal with is facing the inevitable awkwardness of their pasts.  However, those turn out to be the least of their worries when an ancient and terrifying evil is unleashed leaving several people dead or injured in the attack. The survivors’ lives are changed forever after witnessing the carnage at the bonfire and although they try to put the horrific events behind them, their nightmare is just beginning. Four of the survivors are beginning to change as the result of their injuries and their transformation will plunge the tranquil town of Lakeview into chaos and bloodshed.

Janz spends the opening moments of the novel introducing readers to his fairly large cast of characters and these opening scenes not only gives readers a good sense of their personalities, but allows them to feel like they are a part of Lakeview too. Just when you begin to settle in and prepare yourself for the horrors to come, Janz ramps up the chill factor with the introduction of the mysterious stranger at the reunion party. As people step forward to confront him and figure out what he is doing there, he begins speaking in ominous warnings, my favorite being this line: “I hear the worms, eager to writhe in your carcass”. I loved this approach to introducing the werewolf. Rather than having it show up and just start ripping everyone to shreds, Janz uses sentences like these to craft a sense of tension and dread that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. 

The transformation process is one of the most important parts of any werewolf story and those scenes are handled expertly in Wolf Land. What makes them so fascinating is they are highlighted by small moments and differ from character to character. Each one of these characters has some sort of baggage in their past – not living up to potential, serious abuse, death and guilt. Janz does a great job of spending time with each one of these characters and looking at how they handle the changes of the werewolf curse – some embrace it while others are more reluctant to accept their new lives. It allows those who felt powerless throughout their lives to feel like they are finally in control, though they use that power and control in vastly different ways throughout the course of the novel. 

I like that Janz takes his time in showing how the survivors of the initial attack slowly begin to change. It isn’t the fast, stomach-churning transformation that immediately springs to mind when one thinks of werewolves, though there are some great scenes like that. It is a slow, gradual build-up starting when the characters notice they begin to heal at an astonishing rate. Then the changes start to manifest in other ways – a heightened sense of smell, hearing conversations from across the street or even something as simple as a look. These small scenes of change hint that something sinister is taking place and when the characters finally take on the form of the werewolf, readers are much like the characters in the book – mesmerized and unable to look away. They are handled with incredibly vivid detail and more often than not lead to blood-soaked scenes of terrifying violence.

Janz does an excellent job with creating a cast of characters that seem like the same sort of people you grew up with and that creates a connection with readers, even in the case of some of the more unsavory characters. However, what impressed me most, was the fearlessness Janz took with his characters. Without spoiling anything for readers, there were a few characters that were given pretty extensive backgrounds only to be torn to shreds by the werewolf relatively early in the story. I love when authors do that because it creates a very real sense of danger when no character is safe. Then there is Duane, who is known as “Short Pump” to virtually everyone in Lakeview. He is one of the main heroes in the novel, despite not fitting the standard definition of a hero. He is often mocked by just about everyone in town, is portrayed as shy and indecisive and despite his size and is relatively non-threatening. However, Duane undergoes his own transformation and challenges the perception that has followed him around his entire life by exhibiting an unexpected level of bravery.

Janz does an excellent job of portraying the small town of Lakeview and as a horror fan, I love these types of stories. There is something ominous about taking a town where seemingly nothing changes and everyone knows each other and plunging it into chaos by introducing the unknown. Janz paints a vivid picture through short sentences to convey the mundane nature of Lakeview like when Mike envisions his former classmates who used to hang out in the Burger King parking lot after school as adults still frequenting the same haunts, unwilling to let go of the past.

Janz also makes some interesting additions to the werewolf mythology. They are able to communicate telepathically, each one is connected to a sort of hive mind that allows them to understand each other without words. I also like the idea of there not being many werewolves and them preferring to keep their numbers small to avoid detection by any means necessary. Janz also crafts an interesting origin story on the werewolf phenomena involving a historical anecdote involving the Antonov sisters. It creates a plausible origin for not only the first werewolves but also how the mythical creatures made it to America. What makes it so interesting is that it sounds like a true legend. 

What makes Wolf Land such an enjoyable novel is Janz’s highly descriptive writing and his brutal depiction of the werewolf legend. These werewolves are incredibly brutal and there is no romanticism involved in their back story. These are not regal creatures of nobility or misunderstood creatures, they are bloodthirsty killing machines that do not hesitate to destroy everything in their path. Janz does give an interesting look at the humanity of the creatures though and some of them cling to that shred of their former selves to the bitter end. However, those driven by other motives relish their new powers and opportunity to kill at will. Despite the larger than life powers and presence of these monsters,  there are scenes where people fight back and it delighted the hell out of this horror fan. Reading about the sheer power of the werewolves in this novel, it would be logical to assume that any one who tries to resist would be torn apart in seconds flat. However, there are a few moments of sheer determination where some of the human characters are able to inflict a little damage of their own. 

The only complaints I had with Wolf Land is I would have liked to have seen more scenes with The Three, the mysterious group of original werewolves. There was a lot of potential for some interesting stuff there and while not including it doesn’t hinder the story, it would have been cool to learn more about their motives and what drives them. They seem to prefer smaller numbers, but there are others who have joined them. How do they pick and chose who joins them? We get a glimpse of their history through one of the survivor’s point of view, but the explanation seemed a little rushed. 

I have to be honest for a minute and admit that werewolves were never really my thing. I know that seems sacrilegious for a horror fan to say, but I was never all that frightened by them. They are scary enough I guess, but I was always more frightened and intrigued by other creatures. However, after reading Glenn Rolfe’s Blood and Rain and now Jonathan Janz’s Wolf Land, I am starting to change my stance on werewolves and am looking forward to reading more werewolf novels in the future. I was totally enthralled with Wolf Land from the beginning and there are a ton of tense, action-packed scenes that kept me on the edge of my seat. Make no mistake, Wolf Land is an incredibly violent story with copious amounts of blood and gore, but there is also a lot of human drama, humor and subtle hints of creepiness that help make this a stand-out werewolf story. Jonathan Janz is an incredible writer and after reading Wolf Land, I can see why so many horror fans love his work. I definitely consider myself a fan now and I look forward to catching up on his previous novels! 

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Jonathan Janz’s Official Website

Samhain Horror Official Website

Purchase Wolf Land: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror or your favorite bookstore!

Wolf Land tour graphic

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about Wolf Land! – #WolfLand #werewolves #winterofwolves #JonathanJanz #HookofaBook

Wolf Land Synopsis

An unholy predator on the prowl!

The small town of Lakeview offers little excitement for Duane, Savannah, and their friends. They’re about to endure their ten-year high school reunion when their lives are shattered by the arrival of an ancient, vengeful evil. 

The werewolf.

The first attack leaves seven dead and four wounded. And though the beast remains on the loose and eager to spill more blood, the sleepy town is about to face an even greater terror. Because the four victims of the werewolf’s fury are changing. They’re experiencing unholy desires and unimaginable cravings. They’ll prey on the innocent. They’ll act on their basest desires. Soon, they’ll plunge the entire town into a nightmare. Lakeview is about to become Wolf Land. 

Praise for Wolf Land and Jonathan Janz

“One of the best writers in modern horror to come along in the last decade. Janz is one of my new favorites.” –Brian Keene, best-selling author

“It’s the best of its kind I’ve read in years, such that I’d call it “The Quintessential Haunted House Novel.” You’ve taken the old school traditions of the form which readers want and then have injected modern style, characters, and macabre, hard-edged mayhem into the guts of the story. THAT’S the way to do it, my friend!”-Author Edward Lee on HOUSE OF SKIN

“Jonathan Janz is one of the rare horror novelists who can touch your heart while chilling your spine. His work offers incisive characters, sharp dialogue, and more scares than a deserted graveyard after midnight. If you haven’t read his fiction, you’re missing out on one the best new voices in the genre.” –Tim Waggoner, author

Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, this should please readers who appreciate a good haunting.” The Library Journal

“A 10-year high school reunion is the catalyst for lots of furry, toothy scares in this gruesome yet entertaining gorefest.” –Publishers Weekly

“Probably the best werewolf novel I’ve read in a decade.”- Pete Kahle, author of The Specimen

“If you like werewolves, you will think you have died and gone to heaven. Highly recommended.” –Confessions of a Reviewer

“This fast-paced read was a frenzy of carnality in epic proportions. Visceral and surreal, Janz has outdone himself with this newest title.” Nikki, Horror After Dark

“For years now, the werewolf has been hijacked by the shifter romance genre. Well, Jonathan Janz has claimed a bloody morsel back for the horror genre!” 2 Book Lovers Reviews

“Janz is the literary love child of Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum (with a little Joe Lansdale DNA in the mix), with all the terror that implies. Try him out. You won’t be disappointed.” –Pod of Horror

“Jonathan Janz has created a realistic world and peopled it with characters that could be people you know then introduces a whole new werewolf legend to rip them to shreds. I highly recommend this relentlessly fast paced story. A hair raising 5 star read.” –Horror Maiden Book Reviews

About Jonathan Janz

JonathanJanz

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.”

2013 saw the publication of 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. 2015 saw the release of The Nightmare Girl, which prompted Pod of Horror to call Jonathan “Horror’s Next Big Thing.” His newest release is Wolf Land, which Publishers Weekly called “gruesome yet entertaining gorefest” with “an impressive and bloody climax.” 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. You can learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanjanz.com. You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.

Giveaway

Enter to win ONE (1) print copy signed by Jonathan Janz of WOLF LAND! Click the link to enter. There are several things you can do to get multiple entries each day. Forward any questions to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MjMxYWEzMGI1ZDE2MGYyYTgzYjk4NzVhYzhmMTdmOjI2/?

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Comments
  1. Thank you so much for this thoughtful and incisive review. I loved it! 🙂

  2. I know you’ll like so many of Janz’s books Rich! I’ve read and loved most of them. Thank you so much for trying this one out and I’m thrilled you loved it. As always, thanks for all the time you put into writing your reviews. Much appreciated. I’ll share soon. Thanks again! Erin

    Erin Al-Mehairi
    Hook of a Book Media and Publicity
    http://www.hookofabook.wordpress.com

  3. […] On another unrelated note, I was blown away by this wonderful, insightful review of WOLF LAND today from The Horror Bookshelf. Check it out here. […]

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