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The second book in the literary Supernatural spinoff series is Witch's Canyon by Jeff Mariotte. Published in October 2007, this story takes place right after the first novel Nevermore by Keith R A DeCandido but you don't need to read the first novel prior to this one.

 

 
On a tip from NYPD Detective McBain, the boys head to the Grand Canyon (the ‘big hole' as Dean calls it) to investigate a series of mysterious murder sprees that have occurred there every forty years. 
 
Though set in the beautiful vistas of Grand Canyon National park, this is no vacation for the brothers. The Winchesters head for the town of Cedar Wells in a tiny corner of the Arizona desert,  and a stretch of deserted ranchland on its outskirts and run right into the heart of a group of  vicious, vindictive, and totally dead, killers that are terrorizing the small town.
 
In the past, the area's inhabitants have been few and far between, but a nearby mega-mall is about to celebrate its grand opening, and attract thousands of new people…..and new victims. From eons of by-gone days, a deadly horde of animal spirits and human ghosts have arisen. The spectral apparitions are coming back and killing their victims in the same way they were killed. As the dead from each cycle add to the ghost army for the next one, the Winchester boys are determined to break the curse, stop the "forty-year-cycle" (deemed a myth by most of its residents), and keep the mall opening from increasing the body count by a factor of ten.
 
This is a great suspense filled thriller well written by Jeff Mariotte who is not a stranger to sci-fi or mystery novels. He is also known for his western/horror novels and comic books like Desperadoes, and one of his all time favorites is Zorro. An Arizona native, he has written more than thirty original novels as well as books set in the universes of Las Vegas, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Conan, Charmed, Star Trek, C.S.I, Criminal Minds, and Andromeda
Mariotte set his novel in the Grand Canyon to use a landmark that they'd never be able to showing on the TV series. The same was true for the novels Nevermore, and the third in the series Bone Key, set in the Florida Keys. No way would Vancouver ever look like NY or the Everglades. 
 
Mariotte knows the nuances that make the show work. His side characters were well rounded, real people that you develop an interest in and sympathy for. It does have its share of female side characters, but rather then overshadowing the boys, they instead compliment them and fuel the storyline. The author has a great interpretation of the Winchester boys themselves, but also an excellent mix of drama, horror, comedy, action and even a little romance.
 
The author put in some nice family flashbacks of Sam and Dean's childhood, and gives you a little glimpse of how it was growing up under John Winchester. The author aptly depicts the Winchesters, Sam being the caring sympathetic soul and Dean the hardened, careful hunter that we all know and love. But the author put in some good moments of real interaction between them as well. You can see the western/horror interest in Mariotte as Witch's Canyon had a distinctly western flair yet was very Winchesters in tone….a little Dawn of the Dead climax too.
 
Compared to the first novel of the series, Witch's Canyon is an edgier, more difficult case, which guarantees more action and thrills. The story moved quickly, the plot was intense, and the action was fun to read, but had less humor and brotherly bonding moments that in Nevermore. The seriousness of the plot doesn't lend itself well to a lot of Winchester banter, although it is not absent from the book, and both Dean and Sam deliver some great one-liners.
 
This one was a bit more graphic in terms of violence, so don't be surprised if a few nightmares develop. The fight scene between the brothers and the grizzly gave me the heepie jeepies for a long time.   The appearance of the bear gave some good Sam and Dean interactions too.
 
Dean: "What is it?"
Baird: We got a visitor. Not the friendly kind, neither."
Baird wasn't kidding. 
The bear had to be seven feet tall, standing up on its hind legs. A grizzly, a species probably long since wiped out in this area, with light brown fur, teeth that dripped menace and claws like daggers.
Sam: "Dean? What is it?"
Dean: "It ain't Smokey."
Sam:" Smokey…..Dean is there a bear outside?"
Dean was about to respond, but the grizzly gave a silent roar,…..its head thrown back, its paws failing at empty air.
Sam: "I'll take that as a yes."
Dean: "Yeah. That about sums it up."
 
The fight scene that follows is very vivid and easy to visualize through the author's eyes. No matter how many times I read it, it still gives me the shivers.
 
Witch's Canyon reads like a long episode and works better as a straight-up horror narrative than a genre tie-in novel. There are 357 pages of blood and gore in a classic Kripke style, and a generally cold, grim, gruesome and fatalistic atmosphere. It has that kind of claustrophobia-in-wide-open-spaces that make so many horror fans LOVE the genre. Unlike Nevermore, however, Witch's Canyon could never be a TV episode….way to much paranormal activity and mystical special effects for the small screen, but it would make one hell of a movie. 
 
You don't even have to be a fan of the show to enjoy this book. Witch's Canyon is a good "monster of the week" story and Sam and Dean work as a well oiled fighting machine whether together or apart. As they say themselves in the book, "this is what we do, and we're good at it."

Comments  

Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-06-26 14:25
Sablegreen, thank you - it seems you're going to review all the spin-off books? Go ahead, you do it in a great manner!

I've read that, too, well all of them so far, and I liked it, tough I liked Nevermore more.

But - I always loved the cover, great picture of the brothers there.

Thanks again, dear! Jas
Evelyn
# Evelyn 2010-06-26 17:40
I'm so glad you reviewed this book. It's been so long since I have read this book, I don't remember the finer details. But I do remember that I loved this story and had a real hard time putting it down. And it was my favorite of the first three books that came out.

The characterizatio ns of the brothers was spot on and I loved the interactions they had with the townspeople. I think I might have to pull this book out this summer and read it again. And yes, this would make an awesome big screen movie. Full of all the things that make a big summer blockbuster.

Thanks for the review Sablegreen. I concur that this book is a great read for anyone looking for a compelling, action driven story.
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2010-06-28 20:52
Hi Jas and Evelyn. Jas, I liked them both, but loved all the action in WC. Funny you should mention the book cover. This cover is so 'early' Winchester, they didn't even have Dean's amulet in mind yet! Believe it or not, many reviewers negatively remarked about the dated photo chosen for the cover.

Evelyn, I agree with you whole-heartily. Just as good on the re-read. Never gets old for me.
Holmes
# Holmes 2010-06-30 11:36
Hi, I really liked your review,looks like an amazing and really interesting book. But, I'm from Venezuela and I can't buy the books and my computer doesn't open pdf archives so i wanted to if you know some link to download the book in another format.

Thank you
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2010-06-30 15:09
Hi Holmes,

You can download free software (Adobe Reader) from the web that will open pdf files. Hope you get to read the book!
Holmes
# Holmes 2010-06-30 17:38
Hi Sablegreen, thank you, but I already downloaded that software, my computer doesn't open those archives even if I have the software, because it doesn't work pretty well:cry::.
I just wanted to know if there is another format or another way to download it, because I'm dying to read those books and now with your great reviews I can't wait to read them. Thanks.
Sorry for my english.
anene
# anene 2010-07-01 19:11
I found the book okay but boring. It still didn't capture the Winchester brothers like some of the best fan-fiction writers are capable of doing. What i loved about the show and characters was missing. I'm glad people liked it. But for me, it fell flat and focused way too much on the hunt with the Winchester brother's story surrounding it when it is supposed to be the other way around.

There was only one moment where i felt, "this is Sam & Dean i am reading about"