The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz

The Dark GameThe Dark Game by Jonathan Janz

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Flame Tree Press, and the author via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Actual rating of 2.5

Ten writers have been selected to attend a summer program run by the great Roderick Wells. This is unlike any other retreat, as by the end, a winner will be selected to win 3 million dollars, as well as the promise of a lucrative and successful career as a world renowned author. Who wouldn’t want that, right? However, the attendees soon discover that things are not what they seem the longer they spend at Mr. Wells secret property that no one knows about. As the authors begin to be whittled down, one by one, those that remain start to wonder if the promised prize is really worth the price that they’re going to have to pay.

When I first read the blurb for this story, I was so excited. I’m a sucker for a story that is set in one specific location, or the story is told in one night, or something like that. I’m not sure why, I’ve always been drawn to them, movies and stories such as American Graffiti, Saw II, House on Haunted Hill have just always held such an appeal to me. This story was no different. Once I found out that it all happens at Roderick Well’s secret estate, that the writer’s were chosen out of an insurmountable amount of people, and they were basically part of a competition, I just HAD to read it. So you can imagine how excited I was when I first realised my request had been accepted. However, that excitement was short lived.

At first, the story had me glued to the page, I couldn’t wait to find out what sinister things were about to happen to these unsuspecting characters. Characters of which were written well enough, but didn’t excite me really. They were more than 2 dimensional characters, that’s for sure, however, some took more of a backseat to others, which was totally fine, but I kinda wanted all these characters to have a bit of the spotlight, even though I completely understand how hard that would have been. The character of Bryan Clayton was written superbly! He’s an absolute arsehole, and you know this from the second you meet him. The way that Janz was able to write such an unlikable character was brilliant. He really was a character that I loved to hate. Because there is such a large cast of characters, it could be a little difficult to keep track of which past matched up to which character and so on and so forth, but after a little while it became easier to keep track of everything. Well’s character was written absolutely wonderfully. He did so much as DO anything for majority of the story, but he was terrifying. To be able to write a character in this way and be able to elicit strong emotions from readers towards said character, is just a testament to Janz’s ability when it comes to his craft. I’ve no doubt in my mind that this author is a superb horror writer, I just feel like I didn’t get to see his full potential in this particular story.

Now I know that I’ve been raving about the characters and how well they were written as well as praising Janz on his ability as a horror writer, so you’re probably wondering why such the low rating? Well. There were things I enjoyed about the story, such as those positives mentioned above, as well as the last 15 – 20% of the story itself, that is kinda where the positives ended though.

I found the story to become an absolute jumbled mess of chaos for most of the book. I understand what was happening, and I get the point of it all, but it just seemed so chaotic and messy. Sometimes this can really work for a story, but in this case, I felt that it played against it. Another thing that really dropped my rating on this story was that every single thing seemed to lead back to sex somehow. EVERY. SINGLE. THING. Now, before you get huffy at me, I’m not a prude, not at all. I happen to like a bit of sexy time in my stories, I feel that it can really add something to a book. In this case, because basically every single thing lead back to sex, or somehow turned into something sexual just annoyed the absolute crap out of me! It almost felt like a lot of the stuff was added in to lend a shock factor to the story, but for me it really didn’t add anything at all, it just leeched so much of my enjoyment out of the read for me. And some of the sentences were just laughable such as one that springs to mind “he diddled himself expertly”…yup, that’s a sentence. I just found it hard at times to take the author seriously throughout this book.

I enjoyed the excerpt from some of the in book author stories, I found that to be a fantastic feature. And the way that Janz was able to give each story a different voice was just masterful in my opinion.

The horror aspect of this book was very…not. I just didn’t find the book that scary, yeah there was definitely some creep factors, and as I said Well’s was written super terrifying, but other than a few scant incidents where I was like “wow, I wouldn’t want to be in that situation” it just wasn’t very horror for me.

I’ve read in a lot of other reviews that people have enjoyed many of Janz’s other works, but not necessarily this one. So while this book was okay, I didn’t love it, however, this will not stop me from picking up another one of Janz’s stories, I feel like he has a real skill, it just fell short for me in this one.

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