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Rating: It's fine / ★★★
Genre: Paranormal M/M Romance
Release Date: February 28, 2018
Publisher: Darkwind Press
Series: Witchbane, #1
Content Includes: Character death, reference to homophobia, reference to car accidents, reference to stalking

Back when I believed I was ride-or-die for my main, Supernatural, I read Bone Key, official Supernatural profic written by Keith R.A. DeCandido. What that starry-eyed child learned was that she rode for no book without sufficient lyricism and that no, she can’t just have fun; a story must devastate my soul or it’s dead to me.

That’s anathema to most romances (that I’ve read); the point is usually to impart positive feelings, which I’m resistant to. That’s why I was attracted to this series. It works within a familiar framework and delivers upon its most basic promises, but its capital “S” Supernatural angle looked like it could potentially satisfy my particular need for high stakes inside of a considerable plot.

Witchbane accomplishes what it sets out to do. That goal is different than what I desired from it, but it can’t be faulted for that.

It’s a ghost story that’d fit right into season one of Supernatural while also setting up an overarching goal for our heroes to pursue, much like how Dean and Sam worked towards defeating the yellow-eyed demon through season one and two. Where Witchbane suffers is its characterization of the leads and of the relationship. In general, I find it unbelievable when romantic relationships that develop over days, rather than weeks or months, are depicted as strong, so I didn’t buy into their assertions of love. Further, there were multiple sex scenes with the purpose of titillating rather than developing the relationship through physical intimacy. These scenes felt like superfluous quota, like they were plunked in at regular intervals because the story required ## sex scenes to satisfy readers, but I would have preferred for those scenes to reveal or express a new aspect of the characters and their relationship, if they were to be included.

But even ignoring that, I desired greater depth to their personalities. Too often, I confused the two leads because their voices were very close; their speech, mannerisms and outlooks were similar enough that only references to their backgrounds, both interesting, could clearly separate them without a dialogue tag or a chapter heading.

What I find most fascinating about romance, which is the idea of community building, isn’t here at all. The only characters we really learn about are the leads. Everyone else is thinly described and barely included. I’m curious how future books in the series will handle expanding upon the cast or if the intention is to keep the focus tight and to the leads, because there is mention of a greater hunter community and of that community having older queer couples in it that could potentially be really cool to see on-page.

The spooky plot is standardfare. The opening stinger has a gross factor on level with Supernatural (that is, there’s a death with minimally described gore, but it’s enough to get a clear image), but it doesn’t go further in its use of horror. The supernatural elements weren’t specific enough to reel me in. The plot and worldbuilding did only enough to facilitate the romantic arc and not an inch more.

TLDR: This is a light romance with Supernatural vibes and lots of banging between their research sessions.