My grading curve for these “extra-canon” stories is based upon 2 things:
- How well could this fit with existing canon?
- How much do I want it to be canon?
On these two counts, War of the Sons is quite good. No offense to my man KRAD, but this is definitely the best book so far of the Titan print run. I definitely give it props for pointing something out that was so obvious, I feel ashamed for missing it before.
Quote of the book:
“Lucifer’s vessel on Earth is a lawyer? How perfect is that?”
I only noticed 1 typo and 2 continuity errors (one minor, one bothersome). All in all I give it…
I heartily recommend it to anyone on the fan spectrum. Definitely pick it up.
Oh, and the back of the book is accurate. I’d advise skipping it unless you want the first three chapters spoiled.
Spoiler Discussion below
Let’s start with the negative and finish with the positive.
The two continuity gaffs is that the “historical” context of the book is shortly after the episode “My Bloody Valentine”. At one point in the beginning, it’s said that the boys are looking for a way to put Lucifer back into his cage. But they didn’t know this was an option at the time – still, not a big deal, even explainable with minimum effort.
The worst is the ending. The main villain (another fault of the book: we don’t get to spend near enough time with her) is one of the brides of Satan (not Lilith). At first I thought there was another gaffe with her existence but trust me, they work her backstory out beautifully. No, the biggest fault is that the story concludes with Sam, bringing the demoness to set up a trap in his own body. Even assuming a moment that he scarred the anti-possession seal on chest or something, the book makes explicit mention that the symbols carved on their ribcages (by Castiel in episode 5.1), protects against angels and demons. And those tattoo devil traps are mentioned too. It might have been forgivable except the authors did not make even the slightest explanation for why this plan was able to be pulled off.
A new type of demon is introduced in this book, and it’s not bad – pretty interesting actually – but it’s not the main villain. But we spend half the book with it. I really wish they had cut or melded this character with the “main” villain, giving her more screentime and letting us know more about her motivations.
The main plot does start straining toward the end. The biggest deal is that the motivations don’t make a lot of sense when you think hard about it. The whole McGuffin is painted as a big threat to Lucifer but, in fact, it’s a far greater threat to the heavenly hosts. Yet the plot still treats the McGuffin like it’s anti-Satan. In the end we find out that *sigh* another angel has gone rogue. This is just getting tiresome – the bad guys/demons/etc are painted with more complexity and nuance than the good guys/angels/etc. By the end there’s at least two possible threads that would work seamlessly with the rogue angel actually still on the heavenly side, the whole ordeal being a sort of double-agent twist. I’d say “what the hell” but that would be a bad pun.
So what’s good about this book? It’s primarily a time travel yarn, sticking the boys in 1950’s New York – and it is awesome! Julie McNiven said in an interview that the cast/crew on Mad Men are big SPN fans, always asking her about the show, while the cast/crew on SPN are big Mad Men fans, etc. For a second I hoped the story would give us a hint that Mad Men and SPN were actually a part of the same universe – but alas, there’s only a shout-out to MM.
The time travel is used more to put the boys in a unique setting, there’s no temporal shenanigans going on (though they have a brief discussion dismissing it). Nobody turns out to be their own grandfather nor do one of the boys learn that they’re Bobby’s ancestor or anything like that (which I kept waiting for). So in that way it’s a bit of a relief. Who cares about the timeline? Let’s see the boys struggle without internet, cell phones or money! And a great read it makes.
As the best of the genre books do, this one introduces new characters for us to care about since we know nothing bad can happen to the boys. They’re pretty good, including a gal hunter that would give Anna a run for her money in my shipping. The demoness and Sam is… interesting. It’s another reason I wish we had seen more of her, the parts where she is with Sam are too short and few.
The action sequences aren’t bad though whenever a train gets involved, staging will get confusing. (Wait… that’s two books in a row where trains have been involved…)
The lore and mystery itself is… I’m going to go ahead and say that I think it’s the best so far of all the books (even KRAD’s). Pretty tight, well done, interlocking, I feel like I could write up a complete wikipedia entry on the items and lore involved in this. Of course, the more you know about the background story of what’s involved, the better it gets.
We also finally get a lot more examination on Sam. Though I was disappointed that he gets ragged more about breaking the final seal than Dean gets called on breaking the first one. We’re still missing quite a bit on what would make Sam every say yes to Lucifer – other than doing so being their only plan for stopping him. Nick – even though we only saw him for 1 episode – was quite convincing as one who was angry at God. Sam… I never felt like he was really tempted throughout season 5. After everything he’s gone through, would it have been so much to have shown him getting angry at mankind and/or monsters? To have him be madden into misanthropy? Still, you get more of Sam’s temptation in this book than you did in most of the TV. Would that season 5 had been more like this. I can think of a few episodes it could have replaced and been much superior too.