Dana reviews The Paranaturalist by Ki Brightly (Published by Dreamspinner Press, June 27, 2016, 340 pages)
Why I read this: I picked this book up because the plot sounded very interesting. I don’t usually read stories with ghosts in them, but I was tired of missing out on interesting stories because I was too afraid. I thought it was time to push my boundaries.
Blurb: As a kid, Joseph Appleyard saw things hidden from others. Now he is The Paranaturalist, an investigator and cohost of a television show that seeks to prove the existence of the paranormal. Some think Joe is crazy, but they don’t realize he knows firsthand there’s more to the world than what most perceive. The trouble is, somewhere along the way, Joe lost his vision and it left his world flat and dull. One night an investigation goes horribly wrong, and a powerful ghostly manifestation sends Joe tumbling into a river. Spirit worker Owen Watson saves Joe’s life, and once they are back on dry land, whatever has been blocking Joe’s vision has been washed away.
When a haunting goes from annoying to dangerous, people turn to Owen Watson. He hates those infuriating hacks from TV, but when he pulls Joe from the river, his mind begins to change. Joe is scared and confused, and Owen realizes he might just be the real thing. Together, they work to understand the part of Joe that has been shut away for so long. But just as Joe is reacclimating to his abilities, his career as a paranormal investigator is in danger of being ripped away. Owen would gladly battle a bloodthirsty spirit for Joe, but he’s out of his element in the world of reality television.
The first couple of pages of this book did give me the creeps. As a child Joe saw things that weren’t there. His mother’s disbelief and the haunting images were frustrating and scary for me as a reader; I can’t imagine how Joe handled it until he decided he didn’t want to anymore. This is how the book starts – Joe losing his ability to see ghosts and other strange things that go bump in the night. Including the only entity that comforted him through his childhood, his friend Peter.
Fast forward to the future and Joe is a reality tv star. He’s “The Paranaturalist.” Working with his best friend Scott and two women who are in a relationship with each other, he goes to locations that report hauntings and tries to rid them of their specters. Owen who watches the show sees his methods as very unrealistic and the show as a joke. But he can’t help being attracted to Joe. In a weird chance of fate, Joe chases what he thinks is a lost boy into the water and is pulled under. It is an awakening for him; the curtain that had been closed between him and his abilities opened wide. Luckily, Owen happened to be fishing nearby and was able to pull Joe out.
Seeing this world through adult Joe’s eyes was less scary to me. He wasn’t as vulnerable as his younger self, and this time, he has someone who shares his ghostly visions. Owen has been attracted to Joe after watching him on television. Joe is attracted to Owen too, but he also has an unrequited love for his best friend and he doesn’t believe in kissing or doing other things with people he isn’t at least friends with. I’m not positive, but he might be considered demisexual. When Owen and Joe do begin to mean something to each other, I really did enjoy their chemistry. It’s like they’re both charged with mystical energies that combine to create some scorching hot love scenes.
Now, I didn’t find the story as scary as I thought I would from the first few pages, but I did think it was hella interesting. Joe and Owen are very alike, but very different from each other. Joe uses God and faith to fight off the things he sees. Owen is a pagan who uses salts and crystals to remove spirits. Meanwhile, the show that Joe is a part of is falling apart after betrayals rock their solid group of four. Together, Owen and Joe deal with several menacing presences, alive and dead. Though this is a stand-alone there does appear to be tie-ins to two books (The Shape of Honey and Threefold Love) this author has also written. I haven’t read them yet, but now I definitely want to.
At 340 pages, The Paranaturalist isn’t a quick read. A lot of things happen throughout, and I was completely drawn into the story. I do hope this isn’t the end of Owen and Joe’s story, though. There are a few issues that I felt were left open ended. Even though the story isn’t suffering from these questions I have, I feel like there is more that can be told. The different feelings that affect Joe and Owen when coming into contact with others and a family relationship that looks like it needs repairing. Also Joe’s unique strength when trying to fight off malevolent spirits. Ultimately, the story is definitely one I would recommend. I plan on checking out more from this author as well.
9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
Ki grew up in small town nowhere pretending that meteor showers were aliens invading, turning wildflowers into magic potions, and reading more than was probably healthy. Ki had one amazing best friend, one endlessly out of grasp “true love”, and a personal vendetta against normalcy.
Now, as an adult, living in Erie, Pennsylvania, Ki enjoys the sandy beaches, frigid winters, and a wonderful fancy water addiction. Seriously, fancy waters…who knew there were so many different kinds? It’s just water…and yet…
Ki shares this life with a Muse, a Sugar Plum, and two wonderful children.