Castle of Sorrows by Jonathan Janz

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Publisher: Flame Tree Press | Release Date: July 25, 2019 | Pages: 288

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jonathan Janz is back to rip your heart out — and some guts — with this well crafted sequel to his hit The Sorrows. The Castle of Sorrows certainly does not fall victim to the fate that many sequels do in not living up to the reputation of its predecessor. Instead it breezes by it, dare I say beating out the first one in my popularity contest? Janz bring the thrills and chills and kicks them up a notch!

A year ago composer Ben Shadeland, his wife and son, traveled to the Sorrows, a supposedly haunted island off the coast of California, hoping to find inspiration for a score he was to compose. Instead he found unspeakable horror and an ancient evil that his family barely survived. Ben swore he would never go back to the Sorrows again. Now Ben's infant daughter has been kidnapped and Ben is sure that it is the malevolent creature that lives in the catacombs beneath Castle Blackwood on the Sorrows that is responsible. Ben joins three federal agents, a medium, and others in an attempt to save his daughter. But what awaits them is more than they could ever have imagined. The creature, an ancient god named Gabriel, has grown more powerful and has summoned horrific monsters to the island, both human and supernatural. And Gabriel won't rest until he gets his revenge.

Jonathan Janz is one of my favorite horror authors, and I was super excited to get a copy of this book to review. But then I became a bit hesitant. I thought The Sorrows was a fantastic book, and sequels, no matter who the author, a lot of the time fall flat. And I was afraid that this was going to be the case. Thankfully, he wrote a sequel equal to or better than the first and set my fears aside.

So for those of you who are not familiar with Jonathan Janz's work, The Castle of Sorrows is a sequel to The Sorrows. But fear not, this book can be read as a standalone. It had been a while since I read The Sorrows, so I did a quick reread before this book arrived. I didn't need to. Janz does a great job at taking the reader back to visit all of the important events that happened in the first book at the beginning of the novel. No messy, mash up of events, but quick, and well articulated footnotes to catch the reader up to speed.

The characterization was on point. Now, for those of us who read the first book, we are already well acquainted with Ben, and his family, but these characters, while briefly visited in the beginning, get traded out for the new characters, most of whom are helping Ben with his search. Janz took his time to develop these new characters. Some you will like, some you won't — but those characters usually don't make it to the end anyway! With the new characters, Janz, in a way, pulls us back in time, discovering each new character as if we are walking right beside them. This helped me connect with the new characters and made them more real in my mind. Janz has a knack for writing fantastic characters, characters that are likable, that you root for and care about. Ben is a great example.

The first time I ventured to The Sorrows with Ben and his family, I was not really on guard, not aware of what awaited us. This time I was fully aware, and Janz will definitely make sure you are as well! His vivid and lush descriptions of the island and the castle amps your anxieties and fears, and nothing has even happened yet! His description of Castle Blackwood just makes it seethe with an inherent evil that seems to bring out the worst in anyone who enters it, forcing them to lay their sins bare for all to see, touch, smell. The structure thrived on evil. Janz writes in this visceral, raw fashion that only makes the tension thick and the frightening parts eerily more realistic.

And the frightening parts? Oh yeah! There are plenty of heart pounding, bloody twists that you won't see coming that will knock the wind right out of you. Or pee your pants. Or both. Janz keeps the pace fast with his captivating short chapters which keeps the reader turning the pages.

The ancient evil in The Sorrows didn't forget about the Shadeland family. It didn't forget about you either. It’s evil, ever evolving as it plotted and schemed to settle the score with the Shadeland family. What does the delightfully gruesome inhabitant of The Castle of Sorrows have planned for you?