Reviewed by Mr. Dark
Written by by Rebecca Dessertine and David Reed
Published by Titan Books
I have sympathy for artists who work in licensed products. Video games, books, music, whatever, the issues have got to be the same. You’re in someone else’s house, playing with their toys. For ongoing works, like the television series “Supernatural”, you’re playing by rules that haven’t even been written yet a great deal of the time. You have no idea what they’re going to do with the universe you’re working with so the limitations must be terribly difficult to deal with.
That being said, while I sympathize with the authors of Supernatural: War of the Sons, I think they fell victim to those limitations.
War of the Sons takes place in a very specific slot in the Season 5 timeline of “Supernatural”. So much so, they even name the episode it follows for the sake of continuity. It tells the tale of a run-in with an angel named Don who plays a very key role in the apocalypse. He tells the boys he has a way to put an end to the whole Lucifer vs. Michael smackdown before it even starts. They just need to get their hands on a scroll. Problem is, that scroll went missing about 50 years ago. No problem, though. Don uses his angelic mojo, and voila, it’s 1954.
Yep, we have a time travel story. I think that’s the critical error Dessertine and Reed made in plotting out this novel. Time travel stories are always fraught with literary peril, difficult to pull off even in the best scenario. Mixed in with the difficulties inherent in licensed works, I think we have a recipe for…well, not disaster, just not success, either.
The boys go on a merry chase for the scroll through 1954 America, starting in New York City and proceeding across the nation. They aren’t the only humans seeking the scroll, which is guarded by some very nasty demonic forces who are also in pursuit of the stolen relic.
The good stuff is easy to describe: The action is hot. This book has a lot more of the rough and tumble we’re used to seeing from Sam and Dean – gunfights, fist fights, stunts far too massive to pull off on screen. All of it is tightly paced and thrilling to read.
The problems start when the gunfire stops. Because this is so precisely placed in a story arc that is long finished, there’s just no suspense here. Is there any threat of Sam and Dean successfully stopping the apocalypse? Well, no, because we’ve already seen the end of Season 5 of the show. We know from the get-go that this is a side trip and nothing important to the story arc can happen here.
In the last book, The Unholy Cause (review here), we saw references to the main story happening in Season 5, but the plot itself was a stand-alone. By making this book part of the apocalypse tale, you’re just giving us a chapter from the middle of a book we’ve finished.
The book also falls into character problems the show has suffered from as well from time to time. Sam is all angsty. I mean, angsty. Guilt-ridden about, well, most everything. After the 10th time we see inside Sam’s head how guilty he feels about starting the apocalypse, we want to take the role of Dean long enough to tell him to put on his man panties and focus on the job. Dean makes it with the one girl they meet. He also drinks. A lot. And deals with more daddy baggage. After the stellar fifth season where they resolved a lot of those issues, to be dredged through them multiple times within one paperback is a little tedious.
The authors also fall into a few time travel traps. 1954 just isn’t believable consistently. I don’t think random Italian window washers would use the phrase ‘You suck at this’ in 1954. For the most part, Sam and Dean’s behavior and lingo goes unnoticed despite being well out of place for the era. Some other characters, including Dean’s love interest, don’t behave remotely like a person from that era and that level of society would be expected to behave. It just doesn’t feel right so that throws the reader out of the story.
The book isn’t a complete mess; it’s just not successful in what it attempts to do. The action is great, and the character of Don and his place in the mess that is the apocalypse are creative and interesting. You’re just left in a place, when all is said and done, of indifference. You don’t feel like you’ve learned anything new or that anything has been changed in the world of the Winchesters.
I suggest reading the superior Unholy Cause or re-watching the amazing Season 5 (now out on DVD and Blu Ray; review here) unless you’re a “Supernatural” completist.
2 out of 5
Discuss Supernatural: War of the Sons in the comments section below!