The Raven #2: Blood Country – Jonathan Janz

So much blood. So much death.

When we first met Dez, a Latent in a world of monsters, he was a loner. Now Dez has friends: siren Iris, pyrokinetic Michael and Levi, a fellow Latent who may have a secret. Friends are helpful in this world because maths … increased numbers could mean that you don’t die as quickly because you can surround yourself with literal human shields. However, friends are also liabilities. Caring for anyone means they can be used against you in hostage situations or as bait. Still, you don’t want to travel this world alone.

Dez and co. are currently on a suicide mission to rescue Dez’s girlfriend, Susan, and Iris’ five year old daughter, Cassidy. Susan and Cassidy were taken during the battle at the Four Winds Bar and sold to a horde of vampires.

The stakes are well and truly raised in this book. Well, they would be if they were useful weapons in this world but these are not Buffy’s vampires. They’re super fast, super strong and they’re the biggest Bads in a world almost exclusively populated by Big Bads. Basically, if their head is still attached to their body, you’ve got a problem.

“You came at feeding time,” Quincey said. “Thank you for that.”

There’s plenty of bloodshed in this book, some of which Michael conveniently sleeps through. On their way to Blood Country, Dez and his friends encounter plenty of once upon a humans: cannibals, trolls and, of course, vampires. They’re pretty much everywhere you look.

While so much of the action results in bodies that look like they’ve been through a meat tenderiser, there are some tender moments too.

“You came back for me,” she said.

“I always will,” he answered.

This is a fascinating but deadly world. Some of the other potential nasties to look out for are werewolves, witches and nuckelavee (straight out of Scottish mythology, they’re sort of like a centaur but creepier). There’s also talk of the Children (ten feet tall subterranean creatures) and there’s definitely something lurking in the water.

I didn’t understand why vampires would keep something where they were living that had the potential to harm them but that’s just one question mark surrounded by the exclamation marks that populated my mind every time someone’s insides became their outsides.

While I often find sequels a bit of an ‘are we there yet?’ journey on the way to the big finish of the third book, I actually enjoyed this one even more than The Raven. You could read this book without having read The Raven but you’ll have more fun if you read them in order.

I’m keen to sink my teeth into the next book. There’s something to hope for that previously wasn’t even an option. I like Dez and his friends, new and old, and there’s a vampire child I need to get to know. Bring on the carnage!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Three years ago the world ended when a group of rogue scientists unleashed a virus that awakened long-dormant strands of human DNA. They awakened the bestial side of humankind: werewolves, satyrs, and all manner of bloodthirsty creatures. Within months, nearly every man, woman, or child was transformed into a monster … or slaughtered by one.

A rare survivor without special powers, Dez McClane has been fighting for his life since mankind fell, including a tense barfight that ended in a cataclysmic inferno. Dez would never have survived the battle without Iris, a woman he’s falling for but can never be with because of the monster inside her. Now Dez’s ex-girlfriend and Iris’s young daughter have been taken hostage by an even greater evil, the dominant species in this hellish new world: Vampires.

The bloodthirsty creatures have transformed a four-story school building into their fortress, and they’re holding Dez’s ex-girlfriend and Iris’s young daughter captive. To save them, Dez and his friends must risk everything. They must infiltrate the vampires’ stronghold and face unspeakable terrors.

Because death awaits them in the fortress. Or something far worse.

The Raven – Jonathan Janz

Humans have always been monsters. We just needed a push to embrace our shadow side.

In a world of monsters, Dez is a Latent. That sounds fancy, like his superpowers are just about to emerge. It actually means Dez is one of the few people that don’t have any powers, which is especially unfortunate considering he’s surrounded by cannibals, vampires, werewolves and satyrs. Dez has managed, against all odds, to survive for two years since the Four Winds but any moment could be his last.

Although it was the promise of monsters and blood spatter that drew me to this book, it was Dez himself that sucked me in. Despite all of the horrors he’s witnessed and participated in to stay alive, he has retained his humanity. He still has feelings. The grief and guilt he lives with for surviving while so many of his loved ones didn’t threatens to consume him. Although the odds are very slim that she’s still alive, Dez maintains hope of finding Susan, who he last saw being dragged away.

I learned enough about Dez’s personal history to become invested in his survival. The details provided about the various monsters enabled me to picture them, but I also understood that Dez still has a lot to learn, if only he can survive long enough.

So much blood is shed you could probably swim laps in it. I’m a huge fan of visceral horror so loved the descriptions of the carnage, where “shredded guts oozed like wine drenched cutlets” and a “chest was a wicker weave of stringed meat”.

I’m really hoping for a sequel that will take me to Blood Country. Some answers are given in this book. New people and monsters are introduced, and many are eviscerated, bludgeoned and ripped to shreds. But we’re on a journey here, and we’re not even close to the finish line. We need to search for loved ones, get to know new acquaintances (who are hopefully trustworthy) and battle more monsters.

This book surprised me in the best possible way. When I first saw the cover image I found it striking but didn’t really think it was signalling that this was the book for me. It was the blurb that enticed me and I’m so glad I took a chance on The Raven because it was a winner. I’m definitely going to be seeking out more books by this author.

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide, drug addiction and sexual assault. I’m all for slicing and dicing so I was keen for the gruesome deaths, though I was concerned about the satyrs and the potential for on page sexual assaults. Thankfully, while past assaults are mentioned, graphic details were not provided.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Fearing that mankind is heading toward nuclear extinction, a group of geneticists unleash a plot to save the world. They’ve discovered that mythological creatures such as werewolves, vampires, witches, and satyrs were once real, and that these monstrous genetic strands are still present in human DNA. These radical scientists unleash the bestial side of human beings that had been dormant for eons, and within months, most people are dead, and bloodthirsty creatures rule the earth. Despite the fact that Dez McClane has no special powers, he is determined to atone for the lives he couldn’t save and to save the woman he loves. But how long can a man survive in a world full of monsters?