Given the publication date, one can assume the story occurred sometime during season 2 in Supernatural’s time line. There were references to the “special children” and John’s death, and the brothers were still roaming the country together chasing monsters. It was oddly comforting to read a book about season 2 now, after so many seasons of heartache have transpired. There was a nostalgic innocence to spending time with the young Sam and Dean, before they [SPOILER alert for season 3-9] were caught in a fight between warring angels, before they had to avert the apocalypse, before Sam was addicted to demon blood or possessed by Lucifer…before so much happened that jaded the boys’ lives [END Spoiler]. The story took place in the Grand Canyon, which made me snicker given all the controversy about the official canon’s contradictions on the subject. Tie-in novels don’t add to canon, though, so this early in the series the Grand Canyon was as picturesque a place as any for a monster hunt.
I really enjoyed Witch’s Canyon. In fact, I would have to say it is a very close second to Fresh Meat as my favorite book out of the seven I’ve read so far. In many ways, it was better than Fresh Meat. What made this book stand out from the rest? It delivered all the things I look for in a Supernatural tie-in novel:
Continuous Action – Given the books I’ve liked so far, this seems to be the thing that most influences my enjoyment of a Supernatural story. I want to be pulled through the pages, anxious to read what will happen next. Witch’s Canyon supplied a steady stream of dire situations, balanced judiciously between Sam, Dean, strong adversaries and hapless victims.
The Story Focused on Sam and Dean – Obvious as that may seem, I have found that this is sometimes hard to achieve. Witch’s Canyon kept Sam and Dean together for a large portion of the story, exploring their dynamics as brothers and their skills as a hunting team. When they were apart, they each focused on their own hunt. This was very satisfying as the story lingered on examining the skills, fears, strategies, and thoughts of Sam and Dean individually. Pleasantly, the side-stories were also appropriately interjected. They were dispersed throughout the story as necessary to establish the threat that the brothers would have to face, but heartless as it sounds, the victims were killed rather expeditiously so as to not take away from the main flow of the story.
Well Developed Mystery – The story slowly but steadily unfolded. Its premise wasn’t blatantly obvious nor stupidly ridiculous. The scenarios were believable, with enough historical fiction to make it interesting.
Not Too Scary – Oddly, I don’t want my monster-hunt horror story to be too intense. I scare easily when reading alone in a dark room at night! I want enough suspense for the story to remain interesting and believable, but not so much that my heart starts pounding and I jump at shadows. That’s a personal preference and as Keith R.A. DeCandido, the author of Bone Key, pointed out to me after my last review, not an easy balance to achieve.
Strong Supporting Characters – There were several supporting characters who were present for the entire story. One of the protagonists was a strong female character who didn’t vapidly fall for Dean’s lines. She had to defend herself for enough of the story that the reader actually formed a bond with her and cared about her fate. I won’t tell you whether she survived because that would spoil the ending, but it was a side-story worth following. Another supporting character became a humorous ally. His interactions with Sam and Dean were light-hearted and irreverent. I enjoyed imagining the chagrinned looks on both their faces when he called their bluffs or rebuffed their bravado.
Even though these characters materially added to the story, ironically, one of the biggest weaknesses of the story stemmed from a few of the other supporting characters. I was disappointed to have to endure the stereotypical local authorities who refused to acknowledge what was plainly happening around them. They reminded me of the town mayor in Jaws, who protested and impeded all attempts to avoid disaster with a stubborn blindness that was trite and tiresome. I cringed every time the story focused on the whining of these characters. The townsfolk’s oblivious ignorance to the mounting body count was also a bit incongruous.
Still, I would read this book again, which is a testament to how much I enjoyed the story overall (I would just skip the pages where the inane people had dialog!). In balance, I would rate this book an 8 out of 10 as a tie-in novel. These stories will never be epic works of literature, but they are still a pleasant distraction and a relaxing reward at the end of a busy day, and a great way to get your Sam and Dean “fix” during this long Hellatus.