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.
**** Big thank you to Flame Tree Press for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review! ****
**** Trigger Warnings: Sexual Assault, Abuse & Child Abuse, Fat-shaming, Animal Cruelty/Death, Suicide, Drug Abuse, Sexism, Racism, Murder & Violence****
Jonathan Janz is one of my new favorite authors and he can definitely write horror! I was so thoroughly impressed with this book and how much I ended up enjoying it, “The Siren & The Specter” is still #1 though! This is a re-publish of his debut novel, and let me tell you guys I cannot believe this was his first novel as it’s written like he’s wrote many beforehand. He’s one of those authors that I can easily say I’ll be picking up anything and everything he writes from now on!
As you already probably read in the synopsis this book is about a pair of Hollywood music composers who offer money to a man, in over his head in gambling debt, to stay on a secluded island in a very old castle for inspiration. However, after they arrive strange things begin to plague them. Pretty straight forward sounding horror, right? However, there is way more going on here than what you’d expect. Janz’s gift for actually scaring the crap out of me, never ceases to amaze and “The Sorrows” was no exception.
The castle and island itself are spooky enough especially with the “evil” lurking there but on top of that it brings out everyone’s inner most demons. Every dirty little secret that haunts them begins to plague all the characters as they stay on the island, leaving you to wonder who the real monsters are. I thought this aspect of the book really added a lot of depth to the story and it did wonders for each character’s development as well as kept my attention. However, the back stories and secrets are where a few of the trigger warnings I mentioned come in but I’d just like to say that everything was handled very well and with a ton of care. None of these subjects were used for gratuitous shock value alone and are all challenged on page, which I certainly respected.
There’s definitely no lack of action either, Janz’s writing keeps you glued to the pages as you read and I thought the pacing was good. There is quite a bit of jumping POVs and it did get to be a little much at times since we went from four main characters, to the occasional random POV, and then finally the POV via an old journal of someone who stayed at the castle back when certain events occurred. I did appreciate how much each POV added to the overall story but as I said it was a bit much at times.
Overall I’d say nothing was too predictable and I felt everything was done SO WELL. Janz’s writing really is fantastic, I can’t stress that enough! He finds a way to pull you into his stories and not let you go until the very end!
My only real complaint is that I wanted to know MORE but considering this is not only a debut novel but also the first book in a duology, I can easily forgive it. There is a MEAN cliffhanger at the end though so I really can’t wait to get my hands on the next book!
The best part of “The Sorrows” are the characters, no doubt. We get so much character description and development in this story it felt unreal, I feel like I actually got to know the characters. Which made it all the more terrifying when their darkest parts came to the surface, everyone had flaws. I felt like I could really root for some of them as well and others I loved to hate, Janz definitely knows how to write some complex characters!
Ben and Claire were by far my favorites though, they were such likable characters and very easy to cheer on. Ben had such a deep bond and love for his son you couldn’t help but love his character. Claire was probably the most relatable character for me in that she’s a bit more on the shy side but very passionate and she had struggles with body image. I loved how Janz handled fat shaming too, it was challenged immediately and addressed with a lot of care and I know I certainly appreciated it as a reader who also struggles with this.
Normally I’d have a separate section to discuss the romance but it’s pretty brief so I’ll just mention it here. There’s a bit of romance between Ben and Claire and honestly it’s super adorable, slow-burn, and I ship it!
What I Loved:
- Fantastic, vivid writing
- Plenty of action, twists, and turns
- Definitely some scares and suspense!
- Developed and very complex characters
- A cute, slow burn romance
What I Didn’t Love:
- Multiple POVs got to be a little confusing at times
I definitely recommend checking out “The Sorrows” and honestly anything Jonathan Janz writes if you’re a horror fan. He really is a fantastic author overall and I really can’t recommend his work enough!