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  • Mandy McHugh

The Raven, Jonathan Janz: A Review

Jonathan Janz is the kind of writer you can read all day. This is another instance when I'm glad I found the writing community on Twitter. The Siren and the Specter was my first Janz read (and if you haven't read that one, I highly recommend remedying that situation) and I was thrilled to receive an eARC of his latest.

You're also going to want to put The Raven on your list. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where a virus has eradicated most of humanity, leaving only the worst of the worst in its wake, Dez is a Latent--a human with no discernible powers or abilities--and his goals are simple: survive, and find Susan, his lost love. His search takes him into some pretty nasty territories where he encounters acts of depravity and soul-crushing gory violence. It's difficult to do a monster story well. They've been told, retold, deconstructed, reconstructed, and after a while, they lose their charm and originality. It is in this area that Janz excels. He offers a fresh take on the world of vampires, werewolves, and other dark creatures of the night, highlighting the idea that they aren't separate from us--mysterious beings who've lurked on the fringes of civilization waiting for their moment to attack--but that they are us, our inner-most evils given free reign of the post-apocalyptic world. While this bit of social commentary might not be new, it is relevant and so, so important to emphasize, especially in the current state of affairs in which we find ourselves. Chaos can bring out the worst in people, and Janz is at his best when he's exploring the horrible things people will do to each other when free of social judgment or consequence. Sounds bleak, when I put it that way, but there's also a solid underlying humor in Dez, and I particularly appreciated his interactions with Jim and Iris. Because really, what is the end of civilization without a few jokes? The sarcasm and witty banter was well-placed and added to the development of the characters, giving them a lighter side in a world where cannibals crush skulls for eyeball delicacies. Really, Janz is a horror staple. Dez reminded me of the best parts of The Gunslinger--his quest, the gritty acceptance of pain, his wariness of forming attachments. Other parts reminded me of Netflix's Z Nation--without the zombies, oddly enough, but there are plenty of terrifying creatures where zombies would almost feel silly in Shadeland. And if Keaton doesn't give you Negan vibes--but with an actual reason as to *why* people listen to him--then I don't know what to tell you. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Raven and look forward to Janz' next work. If you're a fan of dire settings, apocalyptic nightmares, or dark characters with brass hearts and good humor, this is definitely the book for you. I have a feeling that the horror community will be talking about this one for a while. Big thanks to Flame Tree and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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