Lots and lots of Sam and Dean! That’s the best part of Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Supernatural tie-in novel, Nevermore. It has other things going for it as well, which I’ll get into later, but my number one criteria for enjoying a Supernatural story is spending more time with the Winchester brothers than with any other characters. Nevermore passes that test with flying colors!
So why review Nevermore now? Published in 2007, it was the first of Supernatural’s 17 tie-in novels, and the first tie-in book reviewed by The WFB. Writer Sablegreen gave it a positive nod back in 2010, noting many of the same reasons why I enjoyed the story. But somehow I had missed this book. I thought I had read all the Supernatural paperbacks, but while searching for ways to infuse more Supernatural into my life post-series, I remembered DeCandido mentioning (in a joint, virtual panel) that he was the author of three tie-in books. Three? I only counted two in my collection. I was overjoyed when I realized I had accidentally overlooked #1! (I purposely skipped #7, One Year Gone, by Rebecca Dessertine, because the brothers are separated in that story. Now that I’m desperate for new Supernatural material, I bought it too and will read it next.)
That's why I’m so late to the game and have just read Nevermore, 14 years after it came out!
Nevermore takes place in season 2, between 2.08 “Crossroads Blues” and 2.09 “Croatoan”. To get your head back into the early years, Alice just wrote a new rewatch review of "Crossroad Blues".
Unexpectedly, reading about a hunt from so early in the boys’ history actually added to Nevermore's appeal (I suspect because they have so much more of their lives to live if we go back to the beginning). Sam and Dean are very young in the novel, still playing practical jokes on each other and bickering like rival siblings. Initially, I was actually a little perturbed at how much they tease each other in the story. I had gotten used to the older version of the brothers – the mature, emotionally aware men who appreciate each other. Then I realized that they gained their gravitas through years of tragedies, loss and defeat. Taken in the context of their lives, it was sweet to be with them again before the grief ground them down.
The story is set before Sam knows that John told Dean to kill his younger brother, if necessary. It’s before they know they’re archangel vessels with the weight of the world on their shoulders. It’s before they meet Castiel and learn that angels exist, that the apocalypse is nigh and that they will spend the next decade in a never ending dance of death – kill or be killed by the other bro. It’s before either of them are tortured in Hell, have to battle Lucifer himself, or deal with the King of Hell because, at times, he is the lesser of the evils they will face. It’s before alternate universes, Princes of Hell, or struggling with the ethics of killing vs. raising Lucifer’s child. This Sam and Dean are grieving their father's death but still have the naiveté of youth, and it was really nice to see them again.
In Nevermore, the brothers’ biggest problems are a mysterious ghost and a misguided murderer. They take the case as a favor to Ash and Ellen from the Roadhouse. They worry about evading the police and declined credit cards. In other words, they are hunters again. That’s all. Plain, straightforward hunters (who are just starting to suspect the Winchester "curse") and at the risk of spoiling the end for you, they solve the two cases that are intertwined in the book. Dean gets a check for his “win column” then they drive off down yet another back road of Americana to their next job (ironically in the Grand Canyon*).
Nevermore gets the boys. Every word between them is authentic Sam and Dean. Dean chases pretty women, Sam immediately figures out the murders are connected via Edgar Allan Poe stories.
Nevermore immerses Dean in vinyl albums and classic rock bands, filling the story with rock music references. Season 2 was Kripke’s heyday, when rock music was one of the pillars of the show. The nostalgia of basking in that aspect of Dean’s personality is heartwarming. Not to be forgotten, part of the story takes places on a college campus, with a strong emphasis on academic knowledge, so Sam also gets to indulge his often overlooked (or hidden) base nature.
The backdrop for the story is another pleasant surprise. Rather than the more common small, rural towns, Nevermore’s hunts take place in New York City. The unique tension of parks vs. asphalt plus the smells, crowds, toll roads and congested, confusing expressways added to the ambiance of the story, pulling me deeper into what the brothers are seeing and feeling. Although the road map details at times are a bit overdone, I sensed the author’s love of the city in his writing, and smiled thinking of how easy it would be for location hunters to retrace Sam and Dean’s steps.
I mentioned that Sam and Dean being front and center for the majority of the story is the factor that most influences my enjoyment of a book. My last review of a Supernatural tie-in novel (written seven years ago about Witch’s Canyon - I can’t believe it’s been that long!!), lists all the things I look for in a Supernatural book. When I reread that review, I realized that my reactions to the two books were very similar, and I was happy (and surprised) to see that my criteria hasn’t changed all these years later. Besides focusing primarily on Sam and Dean, my other criteria were/are:
Continuous Action - Solving two hunts simultaneously keeps Nevermore moving at a comfortable pace. While I wouldn’t say there is non-stop action, there is certainly enough to keep the story interesting.
Well Developed Mystery – The ghost problem is mysterious until its climactic (and somewhat humorous) conclusion. On the B side, even though clues in the murder mystery are slowly revealed, I figured it out at a pivotal moment well before the final confrontation. Still, I was engaged enough to want to learn if I was right, plus the action at the end is exciting.
Not Too Scary – This is my own idiosyncrasy but I usually read at the magical witching hour of 3am so I really don’t want things to get too Freddy Krueger on me. Thankfully, Nevermore is more mysterious than graphic or terrifying.
Strong Supporting Characters – Both hunts’ characters are decently done. Some are better than others (e.g. the competent female police detective), as a few strayed into trope territory (e.g. hippie musicians; overly zealous academicians; eccentric, obsessed website bloggers - I took particular exception to that stereotype!) but they are humorous enough to get a pass.
Actually, one of my chuckles in the book resulted from me being a “totally committed” (nay, obsessed) website manager. One supporting character, Victor Henriksen, is brought up as constant thorn in the boys’ sides. His name is misspelled, though, using the more common Hendrickson rather than the correct spelling of Henriksen. I caught it and laughed because every time I run an article that mentions his name, I double check its spelling! I don’t think I’ve gotten it right once yet without looking it up! (Yes, I just looked it up again to make sure I was correct!)
Overall, I truly enjoyed Nevermore. It’s not a complex, epic thriller, but I certainly liked it more than many of the other novels, and would happily read it again. You might want to read (or reread) it, too, just to spend some time again with young Sam and Dean.
Enjoy all of The WFB’s Supernatural novel reviews: Nevermore, Witch’s Canyon, Carved in Flesh, Fresh Meat, Bone Key, Cold Fire and The Usual Sacrifices, plus Nates comparison review of 12 of the 17 in the series. Keep Going with WFB’s Author Interviews, Supernatural Graphic Novel Reviews, and Reviews of books on all things Supernatural!
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*Whether the boys had ever been to the Grand Canyon is a topic of canon consistency within the series.