Review: The Raven by Jonathan Janz

The Raven by Jonathan Janz
Flame Tree Press (September 8, 2020)

256 pages; $24.95; $14.95 paperback
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

Perhaps the most interesting thing about horror is the vast variety in its sub-genres. So many tropes fit under the horror umbrella; I truly believe there’s something for everyone. I passionately believe the horror genre is plenty sufficient to cover any thirst for diversity in your reading. 

My top-shelf writers of horror, the mega-talented, often write books categorized in the full spectrum of the genre. The opposite of the one-trick pony, these authors are part and parcel of horror fiction. 

Jonathan Janz is one of those authors writing bestsellers that cover a lot of ground. Supernatural, paranormal, creature-features, noir, gothic, you name it and Janz has tried it; successfully.

The Raven is a melting pot of several favorite sub-genres and tropes resulting in the best possible mash-up a horror fan could even imagine.

I’ll try to unpack it for you.

Apocalyptic Horror: Fanatical geneticists discover all monsters were once real. Monster genetics are stored in “junk DNA” hidden in the code. Facing a nuclear holocaust, the scientists hatch a plan to activate monster genetics. 

Creature-Feature: Pandora’s Box is opened, unleashing the monster inside of “most” of humankind; some humans, Latents, do not have monster genetics. Werewolves, Vampires, Cannibals, Satyrs and other mythological creatures rule; Latents just try to survive. Some creature-features come across flimsy in character development; emphasizing or prioritizing violence and gore. This can feel repetitive for readers. There are only so many descriptive sequences of monster attacks one can tolerate. Janz expertly peppers a strong storyline with powerful action sequences keeping the pace flowing with smooth liquidity. It doesn’t get bogged down with too much frenetic energy.  

High, Dark Fantasy: Protagonist Dez McClane fulfills in me some aspects of high fantasy characters I absolutely love. He’s resourceful, capable, and it’s a pleasure to be inside his head with all his thoughts and feelings about everything he’s experiencing; especially the backstory flashbacks.

This is a hero’s quest. Dez is hellbent on finding a lost loved one against all odds. The way Janz texturized setting and narrative, this reads like something in the vein of Joe Abercrombie but with vicious, carnal monsters instead of a medieval warrior flavor.

He encounters a variety of interesting characters, some go and some stay. Friends and foes. I found the female antagonists of particular interest to me since I have struggled with female characters in horror before. Iris, specifically, is a delight.

It’s my opinion that Janz has found a new niche genre for himself with The Raven. I’m pleased that ending leaves this story and this universe, wide open for more. I’m a fan.

Leave a Reply