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.]