Book Review; The Dark Game- Jonathan Janz

I received a copy of this title from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Page Count 304

Publication date May 2019/ Publisher FlameTree Press



Ten writers are selected for a summer-long writing retreat with the most celebrated and reclusive author in the world. Their host is the legendary Roderick Wells. Handsome, enigmatic, and fiendishly talented, Wells promises to teach his pupils about writing, about magic, about the untapped potential that each of them possesses. Most of all, he plans to teach them about the darkness in their hearts. The writers think they are signing up for a chance at riches and literary prestige. But they are really entering the twisted imagination of a deranged genius, a lethal contest pitting them against one another in a struggle for their sanity and their lives. They have entered into Roderick Wells’s most brilliant and horrible creation. The Dark Game. 



Written in third person from several different perspectives The Dark Game is a catchall of horror. Every author creating a different story whilst hiding from their own secrets.

I took a beat to get familiar with all the different characters. I struggle a little when writers introduce characters by having them all introduce themselves to each other. Happily they are written with enough individuality that it didn’t take long to familiarise myself.

I felt that by pre-empting the story line Janz was taking away the potential for shock. Sentences such as ‘one of them would be murdered that night’ and telling us when and/or who was going to die always yank me out of focus. Let me follow the story and find out for myself!

Where are they? What secrets do they hide?

Previously in Janz’ House of Skin I enjoyed the book within a book trope, with this many fictional writers though it was hard to follow. As well as the current scenes for each character there are flashbacks, diary entries and their own story creations. The Dark Game is divided into several subtitled parts and each begins again at chapter one. All of these aspects made it difficult to settle in to the story, but perhaps that is Janz’ intent? There is no lull in the action, just unrelenting threat from all angles bestowed by a multitude of monsters, killers and ghosts.

With so many characters to switch between I found little development aside from Lucy, Will and Rick. The focus is heavily on each of the writers shady pasts.

This is my third Janz novel. I enjoy them the way I would a B-movie horror flick- ridiculous, fast-paced fun. I roll my eyes frequently but with acceptance and have come to expect stomach turning, down right disgusting scenes with frequent references to genitalia. I’ve begun referencing this as ‘cheap horror’ -heavy on the purposely uncomfortable oxymorons and shock repulsion.

I think of Janz work as Goosebumps for adults! Pure entertainment with constant and unbelievable threats from fantastical creations. At the same time it’s a raw dirty kind of horror that makes you feel like you need to scrub it off after reading.
Janz has a unique voice, easily recognizable once read, an author I will definitely revisit.

Roxanne’s Reactions

Author: Roxanne Michelle

Dramatic, curly-haired wannabe writer from a nowhere town in Somerset. Stop-starter of all projects great and small. Here to talk books, film, mental health and lifestyle.

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