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Sorrows Paperback – 6 March 2012
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- Publisher : Samhain Publishing (6 March 2012)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 298 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1609286723
- ISBN-13 : 978-1609286729
- Dimensions : 15.19 x 1.7 x 22.91 cm
- Customer Reviews:
About the Author
Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard. In a way, that explains everything. So far, he has written two novellas (Old Order and Witching Hour Theatre), several short stories, and one novel, The Sorrows. 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 cliche happens to be true.
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Ben and Eddie are composers who specialize in film scores. They’ve just been hired to score a major new horror movie, but Ben has writer’s block. Eddie thinks that spending some time in a castle on an island off the coast of Northern California will help Ben get his groove back. But no one has lived there since a bunch of people were killed there in the 20’s. Only one way on or off the island...what could possibly go wrong? Horror, gore, and more ensue!
I found this to be a very quick read. The chapters are short which kept me speeding along until the end. Once things hit the fan, they don’t let up and that propelled me through to the conclusion- I think I read the final third on one sitting. Every several chapters, there are journal entries from someone who used to live in the island that provide some context as to why the castle isn’t necessarily where you’d want spend a month completely cut off from the world; these were my favorite part because I really wanted to know more about what haunted the castle and why.
There are a lot more characters then the two I mentioned earlier- both on and off the island, and in the past revealed through the journal entries. While I felt like characters were a little thin, I did find myself invested in the more likable ones. The unlikable ones were extremely unlikable; no redemption in sight for most of them, no middle ground. And at least one truly vile one that you hope terrible things happen to, but I’m not telling.
My only gripe is that I wish we got to find out a little more about the entity and the island’s multiple mysteries (trying to avoid spoilers) as I still had questions in the end; there’s a sequel called CASTLE OF SORROWS and maybe we find out more there. It feels like there’s more to this island and I will definitely be scheduling a return trip!
The Sorrows (2011) by Jonathan Janz was the author’s first published novel. It contains many of the trademarks readers have come to associate with his work: fast paced narration, brilliant word choices and use of simile, strong characterization (including an especially despicable, unlikable, sleazy character), suspenseful writing, an intense feeling for humanity regardless of how horrific the events, and unexpected plot twists.
Readers beginning The Sorrows initially find themselves ensconced in many of the traditions of a typical haunted house story. There is a small, diverse group of characters (many of them strangers to each other) isolated in an allegedly haunted mansion from which there is no departing until the scheduled time a month later when they will be picked up. They each have their own backstories and baggage and some of it isn’t pretty. Once in the castle, there are mysterious goings on: knocks on doors being opened upon empty corridors, shadows that seem to alter in appearance, a basement pit with a slimy floor and filled with an eye-watering stench, visions and nightmares for the people staying in the castle, and guests undergoing some rather severe personality changes. Janz pulls out all of the stops including the castle setting itself: tall, imposing, dark, and riddled with secret passages to make The Sorrows come alive in all of its menacing allure.
However, it quickly becomes apparent to the reader that Janz has more than a haunted house story up his devious sleeve. The first clue comes from excerpts from a servant’s diary written in 1911 which eerily connects music and composition to Castle Blackwood as well as Eddie’s expected muse from a most unexpected source: a strange young boy given the angelic name, Gabriel. As events from the past via Calvin Shepherd’s journal become more harrowing and more and more of the island’s more ghastly history is unveiled, modern events escalate to horrifying dimensions. Madness, murder, treachery, violence, some truly gruesome happenings, and more begins to consume the lives of the confined cast of characters as that which plagued the island in the past wreaking havoc and death again makes its pernicious and seemingly unrelenting appearance.
Frequently compared to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and the William Castle film House on Haunted Hill (1959) to which I would add Richard Matheson’s iconic Hell House (1971), The Sorrows is an ambitious first novel with the author taking some high-wire walk risks flouting reader expectations and the usual elements of a haunted house story to introduce an incredibly different type of dread. No mere ghost walks the halls and grounds of the Sorrows, but something far worse and much more vicious.
The conclusion of The Sorrows brings with it typical white-knuckled Janz action and anxiety, justice served and unserved, and a rather large body count, but also leaves the reader closing the book in wonder. Although the novel reaches a perfectly adequate, stand-alone conclusion, there are some loose ties and unanswered questions remaining, especially one in the book’s very final sentence obviously left by the author as a sadistic tease. All of this is not only perfect for the subject matter, but leaves the reader wishing for a sequel—a sequel which Janz provides in Castle of Sorrows (2014). For horror affectionados, The Sorrows is not to be missed.
[NOTE: The Sorrows is temporarily out of print. Its publisher, Samhain Publishing, went out of business at the end of February 2017. Janz has reported working on getting all of his Samhain titles back in print via other publishers. For those who cannot find a copy of The Sorrows, it will be worth the wait for a new edition.]
Within these pages are rousing echoes of Matheson’s Hell House, mixed with the wanton and deathly nuances of the late Richard Laymon, with shades of superlative character work to rival that of Stephen King. I would surmise that it is the latter that truly makes this novel click. The Sorrows is a compelling and tense story that contains an ingredient that many genre writers forget to include in their fictional concoctions; characters that you actually care about. The protagonists are deftly fleshed out with real emotions, scars and all. Their collective fates resonate well past the flip of the final page and ultimately leave the reader begging for more.
It's all spot-on, from pacing to characters to prose to attention to detail. I found myself waking up early for work so I could fit some reading in before hand because I was so into this book. The book just blows right by, there are no moments where you're hoping a chapter will end, which tends to happen with even the most accomplished writers for me.
One of Samhain's flagship authors, this, his inaugural offering is vital reading to any horror fan.