The Sorrows by Jonathan Janz

(Last Updated On: June 19, 2019)

Holy crap what a ride that was! Friends, I know you have seen me screaming about The Siren and the Specter and The Children of the Dark, so I am sure that it will come as no surprise to you that I thoroughly enjoyed The Sorrows as well.

About the Book

Publisher: Flame Tree Press  |  Release Date: December 1, 2018  |  Pages: 288
Genre: Adult, Horror  |  Format: eARC  |  Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Ben Shadeland and Eddie Blaze are the hottest young music composers in Hollywood. Fresh off an Oscar nomination, they’ve just been chosen to score a big-budget horror movie by Lee Stanley, the most demanding director in film. But Ben, the creative half of the duo, hasn’t written a note since his wife divorced him and got custody of their three-year-old son.

Chris Blackwood is the gambling-addicted heir to the Blackwood fortune, which includes the Sorrows, an island off the coast of northern California. The island and its castle have been uninhabited since a series of gruesome, unexplained murders in 1925, but Chris needs money, and to get it he allows Ben, Eddie, Claire Harden (an aspiring composer), and Eva Rosales (Lee Stanley’s gorgeous assistant) to stay a month in Castle Blackwood.

Eddie is certain an eerie, isolated setting is just what Ben needs to find musical inspiration for a horror film. But what they find is more horrific than any movie.

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My Review

The Sorrows is the first of many re-published backlist titles from Jonathan Janz and was his first book. It was originally published in 2012 and has been out of print for some time, and I am so glad that this and his other work is being re-released!

Holy crap what a ride that was! Friends, I know you have seen me screaming about The Siren and the Specter and The Children of the Dark, so I am sure that it will come as no surprise to you that I thoroughly enjoyed The Sorrows as well.

The story follows Ben Shadeland and Eddie Blaze, a Hollywood composer duo trying to beat the deadline for the score for the next horror film from renowned director Lee Stanley. Ben’s had a bit of creative block since his horrible wife divorced him, and Eddie has taken to haunting legends in Northern California to scare Ben into inspiration.

“Despite the fact that they’d mind for inspiration in eerie places several times, Ben felt the old thrill. Sometimes the tale inspired him, sometimes it was the setting. Often, the music didn’t come until days later, when a specific memory triggered his imagination.”

Eddie has one last trick up his sleeve before their time is up: a month on an isolated island off the coast of Northern California called The Sorrows with an unsolved mystery attached to it.

The characters honestly are the gem of this story. Honestly, the exposition and character description in the first 20% of the book was incredible and never felt info-dumpy. I felt like these were real people that I knew. Which makes it more alarming as the characters stop acting like themselves; or rather, the darkest parts of themselves are amplified. Every character is fighting their own personal demons… and real ones.

“It won’t let us leave,” Eva whispered.”

Having read both his latest and now first works, I can see the growth Janz has experienced as a writer but his raw talent is palpable. He has a command of writing that sucks the reader into the story and grips them start to finish. I enjoy that Janz juxtaposes supernatural horror elements with the horror and depravity of the human condition. I also appreciated the many allusions, implicit and called out, to the work of Edgar Allan Poe.

“She stayed behind a moment and gazed up at the castle. Yes, she decided. There was an intelligence in its towering pallid contours. Something corrosive and upsettingly sly. It reminded her very much of another Poe story, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’ Except this building did not look like it could fall. It looked like it would stand forever, far outliving its inhabitants.”

Like the other books I have read by this author, I was captivated by the horrors. This book took a bit longer to build into the “NOPE” note territory for me, but the last 40% of the book was a nonstop ride on the nope train! My blood was pumping and I was anxious to see what would happen, hoping that the horrible characters would get their just desserts, and completely enthralled by what I will refer to as Gabriel. I really liked the allusions made there and I hope that is further explored in the series!

The downside to having his latest work published before his first novel is of course that the average reader may not dig to find out that this is a re-released title. This is a really good book, but after the success of Siren and the Specter, it pales in comparison to how Janz has grown as a writer. I hope that the final publication does make note of this.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the story, I did struggle with the many characters and multiple perspectives, and the pacing was a little inconsistent in the middle. Some of the first flashback asides felt really disjointed to me; however, the payoff was incredible: the multiple perspectives tied together and the extra time dedicated to exposition when I was looking for action was made up for in spades. For me personally, I wish that there were fewer characters woven together and that the journal exposition was somehow tied into the plot (like Ben or someone finding them and reading along with the reader), but honestly, for a debut novel I am utterly impressed.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Sorrows a lot, and cannot wait for the sequel because THAT FINAL LINE! There is a lot of intricate backstories and interesting exposition, the horror doesn’t really get started until 60% or so. But the book is scary and the payoff for multiple characters and POVs is there. I actually think this would adapt well to the screen and make an incredible movie. If you like Edgar Allan Poe and films like The Amityville Horror, I highly recommend this book!

content warnings: torture, gore, abuse of power (a Harvey Weinstein-like character), murder, abuse, fatshaming (challenged and addressed), voyeurism, attempted rape

Many thanks to Flame Tree Press for sending me an eARC for review. Quotations are taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon publication. 

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!


  1. Destiny @ Howling Libraries

    November 11, 2018 at 12:02 PM

    YAAAAAY! Such a great review and now I’m even MORE excited to read this. I’m hoping to start it as soon as I finish Night Shift (which I haven’t actually started, but I am in a bit, heheh). Also,

    “fatshaming (challenged and addressed)”


    I love that we can count on Jonathan not to be an asshole in his writing like… certain *other* horror authors

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 13, 2018 at 8:54 AM

      I really think you will enjoy this one a lot, and I cannot wait to hear your thoughts on it! I also just really appreciated that a book in 2012 challenged fatshaming and did a good job to shed a small light on the impact of it. Just kudos all around, sir.

      1. Destiny @ Howling Libraries

        November 16, 2018 at 9:44 AM

        Awww, yess. We stan a legend haha. I just got the FTP email with the Jan/Feb releases and I feel so blessed to know that I have two more of his books to look forward to from them soon 😍😂

        1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

          November 18, 2018 at 10:34 AM

          I haven’t gotten the email yet, but I am going to email FTP and request his January release because it is in the same world as CHILDREN OF THE DARK and I need it almost as much as I need air!

          1. Destiny @ Howling Libraries

            November 19, 2018 at 8:39 PM

            Ooooh, I didn’t know they were in the same world! Too freaking cool. They literally JUST emailed me about Jan/Feb and I’ve got my name down for both of his new ones (I think they’re both re-releases but not 100% sure on the Feb one, I can’t remember) as well as the Cavendish title (IDR the name lmao).

  2. Olivia-Savannah

    November 11, 2018 at 9:19 PM

    I love that you have been working through this author’s work and really enjoying reading them all too. It sounds amazing and I know I need to read one of his books. If not just for the ending that has you hooked until you’ve finished reading. It’s great that his works are being republished again 😀

    My recent post:

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 13, 2018 at 8:55 AM

      It is really a great time to be alive and a horror reader! If you haven’t read anything of his yet and enjoy horror, I HIGHLY recommend Children of the Dark and Siren and the Specter! And this one, too! But if you want something now, the first two hehe. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. Sophia (Bookwyrming Thoughts)

    November 12, 2018 at 5:46 PM

    Ooooo, inner demons being AMPLIFIED. I do like the sound of this happening to fictional characters (not so much me, of course, because I’m quite evil). I have not, however, read any of Janz’s work, though the inconsistencies in plot and multiple POVs are turning me away from reading this one (MY PET PEEVES).

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      November 13, 2018 at 9:07 AM

      Oh yes if this happened to you you’d be a literal demon! I’d highly recommend reading The Siren and the Specter (his latest story), it’s totally creepy with a dedicated POV.

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    […] * The Sorrows by Jonathan Janz: Another winning read from one of my favorite horror authors! I enjoy that Janz juxtaposes supernatural horror elements with the horror and depravity of the human condition. I also appreciated the many allusions, implicit and called out, to the work of Edgar Allan Poe. 📖 Read my full review of The Sorrows here. […]

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  7. GJ Stevens

    December 17, 2018 at 1:19 PM

    Great review. I’d love you to review my book!

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