The Book of Dean is the first book in The Gospels of Cal’eia tetralogy by Calandra Usher. Like the book I reviewed last month, this is also a debut novel although it came out last year. The story centers around Sarah who is on the run from something or someone. She stumbles upon a very odd property in the middle of rural North Carolina which starts her off on a very odd journey. Something is obviously very, very different about Sarah as she can speak and understand horses. One of the four men who live on the property discovers Sarah. When she is about to leave the next morning, an accident forces her to stay until she recovers. Her recovery allows her to and the men to cautiously get to know each other with each side quickly determining none of them are quite human.
The four men, Dean, Fabien, Warren, and Pete, are all very different from each other. Dean is the leader of the group, Fabien is the gourmet cook and joker, Warren is the big teddy bear, and Pete is the serious intellectual. For the most part they accept Sarah right away although they are cagey about seeking medical attention for her after a terrifying accident badly damages her leg. Sarah is okay with this despite the fact she has a difficult time trusting people. She justifies it because she sees auras around people and theirs apparently project they are okay. Sarah also has some other otherworldly capabilities like telepathy, assigning shapes to foods she eats, and has a deep spiritual connection with the world.
The men are able to quickly earn her trust although Pete is the most wary of the four as he realizes something is very different about Sarah and worries about the group being discovered. It bugs him that she was able to find their very large and oddly designed estate in the first place as they intentionally built it in the middle of nowhere. As the leader, Dean trusts Sarah and advises the other men to do the same. Slowly Sarah opens up about herself and questions the men before finally grasping who and what they are. It’s not until the end of the book that who and what Sarah truly is, is revealed thus setting up the next book and presumably is the rest of the series.
Despite this being subtitled The Book of Dean, we really don’t get to know Dean very well. He’s a nice guy, apparently is gorgeous because Sarah keeps telling the reader, and is smart and well-read but then again all of the men hold multiple PhDs in various fields. But that’s it other than an obvious attraction between Sarah and Dean. Despite all this, I didn’t find Dean all that interesting. Out of the group of four men, I found Fabian and Ren the most interesting for very different reasons. Dean was just too perfect and even when there’s a hint of a dark side, something we all have, it’s dropped until the very end when the men’s true identities are clarified.
I also didn’t like Sarah very much. Despite her age being stated as twenty-eight, she comes across as much younger. She’s a caring free-spirit and has this mystical air surrounding her but I found it grating at times to read her ADD-like narrative. Since my spouse has ADD it’s taxing enough having conversations with him that when I read a book I don’t want my lead to narrate that way. Sarah’s story isn’t helped by the first two chapters which are strictly backstory and could have been used later in the story when as it became relevant to the story. There were other chapters that, while had lovely writing and emotion, were distracting from the story itself.
There are little things which are never explained or resolved. For example, the reader is never given the reason when Sarah is still on the run. She initially leaves home around the time she graduates from high school because her mother has passed away but since the book begins when she is twenty-eight, who or what is she still running from? I wonder if this is something that is explained in the next book but more hints or at least letting the reader know, not necessarily the other characters, what is after her. Also, Sarah destroys a valuable object which surprises her and the four men yet again this isn’t explained.
I also felt like there wasn’t any real tension or sense of foreboding throughout the book. I don’t necessarily need a story to be dark and brooding but the whole book and the characters are just too nicey-nicey for me. Even when there are some darker spots, they’re microscopic. The ending, though, I think does hint that perhaps the story will get maybe a tick darker.
Overall, the book didn’t work for me. I wasn’t particular taken with the character of Sarah and felt the mystery surrounding the situation could have been resolved more quickly. I think there was way too much back story that added very little and I think dragged the pacing of the story down. There were also way too many grammatical errors I couldn’t just pass off as a product of how the main character speaks.
I did like some of the otherworldly descriptions and I think Ms. Usher captured the colors and shapes of emotions quite well. I also liked the interaction with the horses and cat because I’m an animal lover and talk to animals. Certainly not in the same way as Sarah, of course, but I appreciate that animals have thoughts, feelings, and unique personalities just like people. Ms. Usher also paints quite a lovely picture and I appreciated reading something different within the fantasy realm.
On a scale of 1 to 5 pencils, I give The Gospels of Cal’eia – The Book of Dean two-and-a-half pencils.