Written by Rebecca Dessertine
Published by Titan Books
It’s no secret that I am not a fan of Supernatural‘s latest season. It was one of my all-time favorite shows from season one through five, but season five ended creator Eric Kripke’s planned story arc in a beautiful and final way. Extending it for another season beyond this master plan, without Kripke at the helm as showrunner, just seemed like a very bad idea. The first few episodes confirmed that for me, so I walked away and haven’t looked back.
It won’t come as a surprise, then, that when I heard the next Supernatural novel was set between seasons five and six to patch together the events of the missing year between them, I was less than excited. Seeing that it was written by Dessertine, who co-wrote the lackluster War of the Sons entry in the book series, did nothing to inspire my confidence.
It was with a little bit of dread that I cracked open One Year Gone…and I’m happy to say that dread vanished completely by the time I finished.
One Year Gone does indeed chronicle that missing year between the end of season five and the beginning of season six. Dean is living with Lisa and her son, Ben. However, things are far from domestic bliss as Dean is still obsessed with somehow rescuing Sam from the cage in Hell where he went with Lucifer at the end of season five. In the meantime, Sam has already returned, and is staying with his also-resurrected grandfather, Samuel. His return is still unknown to Dean, of course, until the beginning of season six. So, wallowing in alcoholic misery yet desiring a better relationship with Lisa and Ben, Dean comes up with a fairly ill-fated and very Dean-like plan to find a necronomicon and use one of it’s spells to free Sam and, if needed, another to jail Lucifer back up again without Sam as a vessel.
This search brings Dean and his new family to Salem, Massachusetts on ‘vacation’. While paying lip service to engaging in tourism with Lisa and Ben, Dean sets off in search of a witch who can help him find a necronomicon. Samuel and Sam also wind up in Salem for entirely different reasons, a group of witches up to no good who may very likely end the world if the Winchesters can’t stop them.
Before long, Dean runs afoul of the coven, Sam and Samuel are forced to keep ducking and running to avoid Dean discovering their resurrection, and Dean’s new family is thrown into harm’s way.
This story in and of itself isn’t bad. We learn more about Sam’s state of mind and being post-resurrection as well as a bit of Dean-oriented humor as he tries to juggle tourism with hunting. However, the really bright points of this book exist in the past and something quite revelatory to the overall Winchester mythos.
At one point, Dean comes across the journal of a hunter in Salem during the time of the witch hunts. This hunting family is named Campbell…and we learn that the Winchester/Campbell bloodline stretches all the way back to the first European settlers on this continent, and that they’ve been hunters from the very beginning.
In all, perhaps a third of the book is spent in the past with the Campbell family dealing with the real source of the mania behind the Salem with trials. These sections are pure gold. It’s still Supernatural, but set in a time vastly different from our own. The Campbells of the past don’t have fancy firearms to cope with threats, so they use far more white magic. The women of the family play active roles in their investigations, but they have to do so in a subtle way due to mores and expectations of the day.
These flashback sections are wonderful. I’d really like to see a series, either in print or on television, featuring the Campbell boys and their sister as their further adventures are strongly hinted at by the close of One Year Gone.
Other than the flashbacks, we have a decent story, but there are problems. For some reason, this entry in the series suffers from some editing problems (grammatical issues and typos) as well as a few fairly poor plot points. (Example: Dean needs a ski-mask at one point and finds one because Lisa ‘overpacks’…for a summer vacation to the beach in Salem.)
As an editor myself, those kinds of problems normally make me crazy, but the strength of the flashback sections overcomes the weaknesses in the primary plot. You’ll need a bountiful supply of disbelief suspension to get through to the finale of Dean’s tale, but there’s a pearl in this oyster in the form of Supernatural Puritan Style.
Dessertine needs some work as a novelist, to be sure. One Year Gone is a long, long way from a perfect book. Still, it’s definitely an improvement over the dismal War of the Sons and provides quite a bit of insight into both the missing year between the last two seasons and the overall Winchester mythos as a whole. Cautiously recommended.
3 out of 5