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Book Review

Book Cover

Heart of the Dragon


Author: Keith R.A. DeCandido
Titan Books
RRP: £6.99, US $7.99, Cdn $10.99
ISBN: 978 1 8485 6600 2
Available 26 February 2010

With the apocalypse just round the corner, Sam and Dean’s work as demon hunters has never been more needed or more urgent. But some evils have a history older than the current struggle and their family’s history as hunters means that some evils are fought by more than one generation of Winchesters. When Castiel, the former Angel, alerts the boys to a new menace which has surfaced in San Francisco’s Chinatown, their journey to meet the heart of the dragon is also a journey back in time as the boys discover that they are the third generation of the family to meet this foe...

Supernatural: Heart of the Dragon is a new television tie-in book by the king of tie-in books, Keith R. A. DeCandido. It is difficult to know if this new novel will delight or infuriate fans of the show as the action is rarely on the two boys, in fact if their characters were not so well established in the show they would have represented the two most underwritten characters in the book.

Personally I approached this like any other novel and not being particularly a fan of the show I have no axe to grind. Apart from a small preface section, set in 1859, where we discover how the Heart of the Dragon came about, the book is set in three time zones, 1969, 1989 and 2009.

The first is the era of the hippies and the killing of Kennedy, although oddly Bobby’s assassination is mentioned JFK’s doesn’t get a look in. I cannot say if this is an accurate description of the city at this time, but it is here that we meet the only character, apart for the spirit, who makes it though the whole book. Albert Chao is a small petty young man, as a half Japanese/Chinese he is accepted by no one. Fired from jobs for dating white girls and excluded from his own community for his ancestry Al discovers that one of his ancestors was a great Ronin who was entrapped by a demon, a demonic Ronin whose descendants have the ability to summon back to earth. When Al summons the heart of the dragon, and starts slaughtering anyone who had ever slighted him, he comes to the attention of Sam and Dean's Grandfather, who with his wife and daughter temporarily wins the day. This is not really a spoiler as had he won outright the book would have been a novella.

Following a quick trip to the present the action shifts to 1989 and their father, who also encounters Chao, this time as a small time lieutenant in a triad. The plot is similar to the first encounter, except this time their father has a sword which purports to banish the spirit.

Now the first two parts of the book works really well and I liked that setting it in different time zones freed it from being constricted by the canon of the show. It is this need to tie the book into the show which weakens the last section as it is too busy and the ending seems rushed, probably because the writer had to get in a quick battles between demons and angels which given the tone and tempo of the previous narrative feels like it was shoehorned in. It adds nothing to the book.

DeCandido has always had a very readable style of writing which never gets in the way of the plot's advancement, true most characters show very little development but then they are either in the book for a very short time or, like Sam and Dean, their characters are predefined by their on-screen personas. Albert Chao is the exception to the rule, but then he is the only character who appears in all time zones allowing the writer to follow him from a youth driven by resentment to a man driven by power.

The paucity of Sam and Dean may make their fans weep, but personally I thought that this just made it a better novel, freed of the show's restrictions the better parts of the book are those in which the two characters do not appear.


Charles Packer

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