"Darkness on the Horizon" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Amazon Digital Services

Written by Christopher Renna
2019, 289 pages, Fiction
Released on 19th February 2019


The heyday of the huge-selling vampire novel might be a few years in the past and I doubt the success of the monster selling Twilight is going to be replicated anytime soon. However, there are still plenty of new offerings on the market in this popular sub-genre for fans to sink their teeth into. Christopher Renna’s Darkness on the Horizon has Young Adult (YA) leanings and I struggled in deciding who exactly the intended audience is, as books which do this often fail to find a market. This supernatural tale develops its own set of rules for the vampire myth, attempting to create a fresh vision to a story we are all very familiar with. Along the way it takes in a taste of vampire culture, their history and how these supernatural beings exist in tandem with our own human world.

Teenage loner Morgan Fischer lives with his abusive, alcoholic father and dreams of escaping the small town of Colby Pennsylvania. Having no money for food, Morgan mows lawns to survive and paints to escape the drudgery of living with a father who cannot bear the sight of him. Whilst the teenager is out canvasing for new customers, he notices that the Fischer House (where his family once lived) has a new couple living there and offers his services. Soon he is doing a range of odd jobs for the friendly residents and is pleasantly surprised when they invite him to stay for dinner.

Jonathan and Ava treat Morgan wonderfully and before long he is spending more time at the Fischer House than his own. It is soon revealed that the brother and sister are vampires and at this stage Darkness on the Horizon hits its first major problem, which it fails to shake off. These vampires are so incredibly nice, they are dull beyond belief and I doubt a potential teenage audience will struggle to engage with them or find anything about them remotely engaging. Adults readers will find them equally one dimensional also. As the relationship between the three develops, the reader naturally imagines that the vampires have something nasty in store for Morgan, but they do not. The story moves on slightly when another vampire, Tirich, turns up and a body-count begins to mount, but there is limited mystery or intrigue around the killings, as several non-descript locals are bumped off.

Much of the book is about Morgan’s developing friendship with Jonathan and Ava as he moves from schoolboy loner into a completely new supernatural world where he is no longer a victim. Christopher Renna has obviously put considerable thought into his world buildings in which clans of vampires exist with their own rules for hunting based upon location. As vampires get older they become more powerful and revered within their own society. Jonathan and Ava are much too nice to feast upon humans unless they really deserve it, as I said these are two very bland characters. There are also humans who aid vampires called Immortal Souls, but don’t expect any monstrous creation to rival Straker from Salem’s Lot. These revelations are interesting to an extent, but once again, it fails to fire the imagination and I struggled to engage with this vision and the stilted dialogue between the characters.

The final sequence of the novel moves to London and this also fails to fire the imagination, as it centres upon uninspiring vampire plotting, with several very clunky action sequences, none of which are either gripping or convincing. Considering the depth of good vampire novels on the market, I will be surprised whether Darkness on the Horizon makes any impression of note. It lacks any scares, the characters are all too similar and more crucially, fails to get under the skin in nailing the conflicting feelings of a troubled teenager.

Bearing in mind this is potentially a YA coming-of-age novel, I am surprised that the threat of male rape is used on several occasions as it seems out of place in a novel which might be read by teenagers. That aspect pushes it towards the adult audience as it is revealed that most vampires are bi-sexual and highly sexualised, as Morgan finds out as the story evolves. If that is the case, there is just not enough depth of plot to sustain the novel. We may well hear more about this in the second instalment, Before the Sun Rises, which is due to be published later in 2019. However, Darkness on the Horizon is just not good enough to merit a sequel in a horror market which is saturated with excellent vampire novels.


Overall: 2.5 Star Rating Cover
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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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