The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz

The Dark GameThe Dark Game by Jonathan Janz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chosen are ten writers, their ultimate goal to win the contest presented by the illustrious – and suspiciously elusive – Roderick Wells. Residing in his mansion for the summer, the task of penning the perfect tale of horror evokes the darkness already in their hearts, taking the form of regret, jealousy and ill intent. The ever-changing environment and dwindling number of the group doesn’t help matters, and soon the game descends into all-out madness.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Flame Tree Press for giving me the opportunity.


My fifth Jonathan Janz novel, and yet another showcase of diversity in plot – such to be expected from Janz. I can honestly say that I found the overall concept of The Dark Game to be not only imaginative, but seriously clever to boot. I initially expected to be reminded of another, older title similar in premise (Haunted); of which I didn’t care for much at all. I was therefore happy for such an expectation to be proved wrong, as whilst there were resemblances, they were negligible. The Dark Game was a coherent piece, with a balance between the frightening and the conflict of human morality. As soon as events began to unfold I had a smile on my face, because it – Roderick Wells and his sinister manipulations – was just so cool, and that’s not a word I use often in my reviews.

The beginning was set up well – ten writers from all walks of life, some with more success than others, yet with one thing in common: big dreams of fame and fortune. There were many delicious little secrets, a handful of greedy schemes, and a mysterious threat that loomed above all. The emphasis on horror literature really appealed, especially the discussions that delved into what makes a compelling villain. I actually believe aspiring authors could possibly learn a thing or two in this regard, or at least take away food for thought when it comes to the creation of their antagonists. Suffice it to say, some intriguing points were touched upon.

Admittedly I had a little trouble distinguishing between certain characters, but that might have been a mere case of not being used to such a large cast. Staying true to the Janz formula, the majority of personalities were impossible to like, but there were a select few that fit the bill of good people, despite the mistakes of their past. My favouritism didn’t lie with any of the participants though, but with Wells himself. He was a glorious monster.

The read didn’t conclude entirely without complaints. My biggest issue overall was the ending and how it didn’t satisfy, nor make sense to me. I feel like it ruined something great, and that was an immense disappointment. Naturally I can’t give away what specifically bothered me – the spoilers would be too great. However, if I were to focus on the journey rather than the destination, then a high rating is well deserved in my books.

In conclusion: The Dark Game was a pleasure to read; a story that brought significance to the struggles of writing and the insecurities that plague those creative types. There were twists and turns that I enjoyed, and the short chapters were a boon to my reading mood (of which was lacking). The only negative was that I didn’t cohere with the ending.

Notable Quote:

“This place… this place… is a wonderland of hideous beauty. Of dreadful passion. The water that flows on this property is laced with the elixir of madness, the trees nourished by the blood of the damned.”

© Red Lace 2019

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