Supernatural: Carved in Flesh – Review

Supernatural: Carved in Flesh by Tim Waggoner is a tie-in novel, released by Titan Books, for the CW television series Supernatural. This adventure of the Winchester brothers takes place during season seven, in between the episodes “Time After Time” and “The Slice Girls,” meaning that Bobby is dead, the Impala is locked away somewhere, and taking down leviathan leader Dick Roman is now the number one focus of Sam and Dean. That was a depressing time during season seven, when everything that the brothers loved was stripped away from them–their car, their crotchety father figure, and eventually even their pie. But this book did its best with that dark time and I really enjoyed it.

This book takes on the legend of Dr. Frankenstein in true Supernatural style, where nothing is quite what it seems. Sam and Dean catch wind of strange corpses showing up, drained of all life, and that puts them on the trail of a weird dog that appears to have been patched together from pieces of other dogs. Sam thinks that maybe the dog’s power of draining life could be used as a weapon against the leviathan, which gets Dean on board, but things get weirder from there. Another strange creature shows up, connecting back to the work of a mad scientist. It all ties back to an ancient, dark power, and the brothers are now in a race against time when they discover that Sam has received a grievous, supernatural injury.

Book cover for Carved in Flesh featuring Sam and Dean's floating headsThe plot of this book was pretty cool. I liked watching how everything came together and the myths they decided to explore. I don’t want to give the ending away, so I’ll just say that I liked the many twists and turns this took. The point of view jumped around to several different characters, so the mystery wasn’t quite as strong as it would have been if it had stayed just with Sam and Dean, but there was still enough to keep me wondering what was going to happen next. It reminded me a lot of the episode “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things,” where a man brings the woman he loved back to life as a zombie. The moral of that story was that it doesn’t matter how much you loved someone, you need to let them go when it’s their time. Otherwise they might end up zombified and killing you, which is less than ideal. This book had a similar theme, exploring how your love for another can go too far, how grief can consume you so much that you can no longer see reason and would do anything to bring back the person you lost. The patchwork monsters Sam and Dean run across in this are in part the product of a woman who has lost too much, and gets lured into working for a man that makes her do dark, dangerous things to bring back her family.

Sam and Dean are awfully familiar with that problem, seeing as how it’s family tradition for them to sell their souls for one another. But they’ve always avoided the zombie route, never bringing someone back without their soul. I wish that was explored a bit more. Sam and Dean have encountered this before, and Dean especially has problems with that because his father died to save him (even though Dean went and did the same thing for Sam later that same year).

I especially wish that a connection was made between bringing loved ones back from the dead out of grief and the all-consuming drive for vengeance the brothers experienced after Dick Roman killed Bobby. A big part of this book was about how they only wanted to pursue this case as a chance to find a weapon to kill the leviathans, because they wanted to avenge Bobby’s murder. But that narrow focus of theirs came from the same sort of grief that led to the Frankenstein’s monster-types running around in this book. It’s just that Sam and Dean’s grief was bent in a different direction. I think that could have been developed along with the story, giving a deeper look into the characters than we got in here.

But other than a missed opportunity for some deeper character development, I liked this book a lot. This was good fun with plenty of action and humor, along with some terrifying and heart-breaking moments that fit right in with the Supernatural universe. I’d give this four out of five Impalas (in honor of its absence from this book). If you want to see an interesting take on the Frankenstein mythos with a new twist thrown in, you’ll enjoy Carved in Flesh.