Review — John Cleaver Series

It’s been a while since I’ve actually read through the entirety of a book series, especially one longer than a trilogy. (The only other time I’ve done that in recent years was Sanderson’s Alcatraz series.) I’m no longer used to capital-‘C’ Conclusions, because everything I finish these days is a part of a series, be it podcast, YouTube series, or book. So, as usual, no specific spoilers, though I will give away the basic premise of the series as a whole.

The weird part is, listening to this series on audiobook as they were released, I had no idea this was the last book until I was already almost done with it, and even then it was only based on the context of what was being said. I think it also has to do with the fact that, as a fantasy reader and gamer, most of the things I experience progress in scale and stakes as you get more invested into it. The last book really isn’t as climactic as one of the books before it.

But I’m going on a tangent, here. Is the book series good? Well, it’s definitely different. It’s a little strange when the protagonist is arguably less human than the demons he is trying to stop. Dan Wells did a great job making a character that toes the line between hero and villain. The series has a macabre atmosphere the whole time, but it’s interesting because it’s also a mystery novel where the protagonist has to be clever in order to deduce the situation and figure out a way to handle it. I especially liked it because it doesn’t follow the typical rules of “who is the killer”. Instead, a huge focus of the books is “How is the killer?”

It makes more sense when you read it yourself.

It really does it’s job as a mystery series, though it does kind of cheat because of the supernatural element that the reader can’t predict ahead of time (because the clues can sometimes translate to strange conclusions).

My biggest critique for the book series as a whole is that there are remarkably few neat characters in it. In the entirety of the six books, I could count on one hand the number of characters that had enough depth and intrigue to interest me beyond their place in the plot. For example (not really a spoiler), his mom is a very typical mom, and doesn’t really have any qualities that make her stand out. And there aren’t many characters in the series that do. In fact, one of the ones I really liked died really suddenly, which made me upset because I wanted to know more about them! (Also not a spoiler because of course people die in this series!) It’s sort of funny how I like the series because of how unique the main character is, and yet I think its biggest flaw is how unique all the other characters aren’t. I suppose he just spent all his character building energy on the protagonist, which makes perfect sense to me.

As far as the ending goes, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s the sort of ending that is both impossible to predict and blatantly obvious in hindsight. It’s that sweetspot authors have a hard time finding, but I think Dan Wells really nailed it. To be honest, I didn’t like the ending at first, because it seemed too easy. But after giving it more thought, I couldn’t think of any ways to close the series that would be more satisfying, so I’ve concluded that this is the correct one. Plus, giving it that much thought made me appreciate it all the more, because it wraps up and “answers” the theme of the series as a whole very well. Bravo.

Dan Wells has certainly earned his place on my shelf. None of his novels have disappointed me, and it’s a little peculiar that he isn’t even a fantasy author, which is usually my niche. I hope one day he fills that gap, but only if he can deliver on the standards I’m going to hold him up to, given everything else he’s published!

2 thoughts on “Review — John Cleaver Series

  1. I think one of the reasons none of the other characters seem as interesting as John is because everything is through the lens of John’s perspective. Think about how he describes things *he* is interested in, and how everything else seems to just get filtered by his disconnection with normal human emotion. It’s kinda great.

    Also 6th paragraph is missing the first letter =P

    Liked by 1 person

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