Zakk reviews Children of the Dark by Jonathan Janz

The Eyes of Madness presents “Simple reviews from a simple reader…”

Zakk reviews “Children of the Dark” by Jonathan Janz. 398 pages (298 digital) published by Sinister Grin Press.

“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.”


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.

“Tonight, I would have rather chopped off my pinkie toe with a meat cleaver than cut through the Hollow. I kept seeing that large, veiny hand clamping over Kylie Ann’s mouth.

Was the kidnapper still lurking nearby?

Masonic Road bordered the cemetery, and that was enough to make me jumpy to begin with. Added to that the fear of Kylie Ann’s kidnapper, and I was downright terrified.”

I found my way into this glorious world of horror fiction at the ripe age of 11. I was primed and ready for an adult read and when I saw a particular book cover I asked my beloved grandmother to buy it for me. She did, bless her heart. My first horror read was Stephen King’s The Dark Half and I have been hooked ever since. A Horror junkie and there’s no hope for reform. God bless it.

In the time I’ve spent in the genre a couple of troupes have taken hold as favorites, always tickling my fancy. One being the “through the eyes of youths” tale, and the second being the classic “creature-feature”. Imagine my elation as these two loves collide in the form of Children of the Dark, a pretty great new novel from Jonathan Janz and Sinister Grin Press, my second ever Janz read.

Children is a tense, energetic read. The world that you, the reader, are allowed to trespass is an exciting one, a charming one. The mix of themes that I had grown to love co-mingling with each other left me with a euphoric feeling.

There is a great mix of small-town personalities inhabiting this book. Unique from each other and all serving the tale nicely. The ruined mother, the jerk sheriff, the bullies, the friends, they all had a pulse and breath. I would have liked the character of Carl Padgett to have been a little more fleshed out. He is involved in some great scenes, and his interaction with Will is heavy and powerful, but overall he feels like more of a plot device.

But then there’s the creatures, the children. Fantastic in their design, their tenacity and ferocity. This is the joy in the novel. The total chaos of survival. These creatures are great constructs and I really hope to see them again.

There were a couple of character development arcs that felt a little off balance in their delivery, but when I began to learn more about 15 year old Will Burgess, our main character who comes off kind of a jerk at times is his own right, it all started to come to come together for me. I may be reading too much into things but I think Will has a shadow, a darkness inside of him. Which makes sense as the narrative unfolds, and lord will there be a sequel, it’ll be fun to see his physical presence match his inner darkness.

I think that half of the reading experience is what the author is serving you, the other half is you filtering the words through your grey matter like cheese cloth, interpreting the information given and connecting with it. Sometimes it’s easy, other times it’s a matter of finding the right angle. The connection can be, and usually is, different for everyone. My connection came pretty quickly and stayed solid throughout the read.

Children of the Dark is definitely a world I’d like to return to, be it sequel, prequel, or tangent. And if Wolf Land wasn’t enough to cement Janz as a must read author then this read is. Check it out and have a blast.

“So let’s say everything works out and we get to her house. What then? Do we just knock on the door and say to her parents, ‘Hey, I know Chris beat your son’s team last night, but he wants to give your daughter a necklace that smells like an old man’s ass?”

Overall score: 4/ 5

Zakk is a big dumb animal!

Put Children of the Dark on a playlist with The Body, Summer of Night and Sophan (the first story in Devourer of Souls).

**Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher/ publicist on the promise of an honest review. These are my unbiased feelings.


Biography of Jonathan Janz

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.

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

Purchase Links


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One Comment Add yours

  1. Thanks so much for hosting this review, Z! What great thoughts! If you’d like a prequel there is one in Savage Species, one of my favorite books by him!

    Hook of a Book Media and Publicity


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