Jonathan Janz “Children of the Dark” Review

Posted: March 28, 2016 in Reviews, Uncategorized
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Publisher: Sinister Grin Press

Length: 293 Pages

Release Date: March 15, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review as part of Children of the Dark Blog Tour

Last year I read Jonathan Janz’s Wolf Land, which was my introduction to the work of this incredibly gifted storyteller. That novel ended up landing in my top 10 favorite novels of 2015 and had me kicking myself for having not read his work sooner. So when Jonathan asked me to review his latest novel Children of the Dark, I was excited to see what he had in store with this novel. I am happy to say it is every bit as awesome as I expected!

Fifteen-year-old Will Burgess is about to have the worst summer of his life, despite winning the league championship. Will and his best friend Chris Watkins just finished up their freshman year and despite their inexperience, they are among the best baseball players in Shadeland High. Their athletic achievements place them on the radar of upperclassmen Brad Ralston and Kurt Fisher, who despise Will and Chris for attempting to steal the glory from them. The tension is only amplified by the fact Will is helplessly in love with Brad’s girlfriend Mia and Chris pines after Kurt’s girlfriend, Rebecca. But their run-ins and near brawls with the upperclassmen are the least of their worries.

One night when the trio of friends sneak off to swim in the creek at night with Mia, Rebecca and ice queen Kylie Ann, Mia sees something frightening in the woods of Savage Hollow. She claims she saw a face with huge, green eyes that glow in the darkness and teeth as long as knives leering at her from the woods. It just so happens that at that very same night they learn Carl Padgett, the notorious Moonlight Killer, has escaped from jail. His presence looms over the town of Shadeland. The day after the news broke of Padgett’s escape, Will notices the streets are deserted despite it being a sunny Saturday morning in June while on his way to Barley’s house. People were glued to their TVs and paralyzed with fear over the thought of a notorious serial killer on the loose. Once Will arrives at Barley’s house, Barley reminds Will of the local legend of the Wendigo, which stretches back thousands of years ago when Shadeland was home to the Algonquins and the Iroquois. This is the first mention of  “The Children”, whose inclusion in the story help fuel the creepiness and dread that permeates every page of the novel’s second half.  With the Moonlight Killer on the loose and reports of The Children surfacing again, Barley warns Will that things could get very bad. A storm is coming to Shadeland, the biggest one in years that is supposed to flood the area and cause extensive damage.

One night when Will and his friends head out to the woods to meet up with the girls at their treehouse, the unthinkable happens – Kylie Ann is snatched by a pale hand and carried off deep into Savage Hollow. Will rushes to save her but gets knocked out but not before catching a glimpse of the large frightening figure that had grabbed her. As the authorities scour the woods in search of Kylie Ann, they make a startling discovery. Someone or something is loose in the woods of Shadeland and once it is unleashed, the town descends into chaos and bloodshed and not everyone will survive.

When talking about what makes Children of the Dark such a great read, it is damn near impossible to limit it to just one thing. Janz excels at crafting vivid settings and characters that are bursting with personality and those traits are found throughout Children of the Dark. The opening scene of the baseball grudge match between Will’s team and Brad’s team is just one of the many scenes that really illustrate his talent at immersing readers into his stories. Janz gives readers important details about these characters in this scene and their personalities shine through in tiny moments, like when Chris and Will joke together on the mound. This is an impressive aspect of Janz’s writing because he makes you feel drawn to these characters and they appear fully formed in your mind in just a few pages.

The events that unfold in Shadeland are incredibly frightening and ripped straight from the depths of hell, but Janz does such an amazing job of bringing the town to life, I couldn’t help but feel a connection to it. Although they are vastly different stories aside from each town facing hellish scenarios, I got the same feeling reading about Shadeland as I did reading about Chester’s Mill in Stephen King’s Under The Dome. Something about the way both Janz and King describe the towns their stories take place in – from the residents down to popular haunts that they frequent – have a sort of realistic quality to them that instantly draws me in. Every day when I would get home from work, all I could think about was diving back into the world Janz created despite the horrors lurking just around the corner. One of the things that I loved about Children of the Dark is that it is set in the present day, but it has a timeless quality to it, similar to the horror film It Follows.

I loved the interactions between Barley, Will and Chris. They are a great group of friends and it is obvious their friendship has stood the test of time, considering they still hang out in their childhood treehouse that represents all the milestones of their friendship. Through these three, Janz perfectly captures that feeling of being a teenager where everything feels possible and looking forward to hanging out with your best friends. Their friendship also offers some comic relief as they tease each other unmercifully and Barley’s attempts at flirting are hilarious.

From a horror standpoint, Janz delivers not just one but many great antagonists. First up is “The Children”, who are some of the most frightening creatures I can remember reading about in recent memory. I don’t want to give away too much of what they are or what they are capable of, but when Janz unleashes them on Shadeland, horror fans definitely won’t be disappointed! Then there is Carl Padgett, widely known as “The Moonlight Killer”. He is a deranged serial killer influenced by Jack The Ripper and when you hear about him earlier through other characters point of view, he seems scary but when you finally see him in action…wow. His interactions with Will are tense and full of action as he plays a complex psychological game with him. He is incredibly strong and what makes him frightening is his total disregard for human life. He clearly relishes causing carnage and destruction and while “The Children” are probably the most frightening characters in this book, Padgett is every bit as bloodthirsty as they are.

I also loved Janz’s approach to the format of Children of the Dark. The novel blends a coming of age horror story with elements of the creature feature and slasher genres and Janz weaves these threads together seamlessly for one of the best reads of the year. There is a lot to like about Children of The Dark from adrenaline-fueled action scenes, plenty of twists, and a second act that left my jaw on the floor. Children of the Dark serves as a prequel to Janz’s serial novel Savage Species and while I haven’t read it yet, I am definitely planning on reading them as soon as possible. Children of the Dark is another stellar novel from Janz and an essential addition to the library of any horror fan!

Rating: 5/5


Jonathan Janz’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press Official Website

Purchase Children of the Dark: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookstore!

Children of the Dark (1)

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Children of the Dark 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.

Praise for Children of the Dark

Jonathan Janz brings us a vicious tale of terror with the innocence of youth in a coming of age tale that should surely make Stephen King smile.” – Dave, Beneath the Underground

“Jonathan Janz has written the next definitive coming-of-age horror novel that is sure to be mentioned alongside those that came before it. Be on the right side of history and read it now, before it becomes a classic.” Patrick Lacey, author of A Debt to be Paid

Praise for Jonathan Janz

“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

“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, multi-published author

“Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror–Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows–will find much to relish.” – Publishers Weekly on Savage Species

About Jonathan Janz

Janz COD Tour

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.” 2015 also saw the release of 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 You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.


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