John’s quick take: A clever and entertaining mash-up of cowboy Western, mysticism, mythol...moreOriginal review written by John posted at Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take: A clever and entertaining mash-up of cowboy Western, mysticism, mythology, urban fantasy, and horror – all set on the edge of the Nevada desert in the late 1860s, in the weirdest little town you can hope to imagine.
John’s description: After the disappearance of his beloved dad, who is a deeply scarred Civil War veteran, young Jim Negrey’s life turns upside down. With secrets to hide and on the run, he heads out west and eventually finds himself crossing the deadly 40-Mile Desert in Nevada. Out of water and with his horse on the point of dying, Jim is in a desperate situation, but he’s discovered and rescued by a strange outcast Native American Indian, who seems to have an odd affinity with the wild coyotes. The Indian, whose only name is Mutt, is deputy at the nearby wild town of Golgotha, and that is where he takes Jim.
Golgotha turns out to be weird beyond belief – with a host of oddball characters and a history of strange happenings. One of these characters is the town sheriff, Jon Highfather, who has “the mark of the noose” around his neck and is believed by many to be a dead man whose time has not yet come. Being a new friend of Mutt, who is deeply trusted by the sheriff, Jim is taken under the wing of Highfather.
Almost immediately that Jim arrives in town, all manner of madness and mayhem breaks out - much of which seems to stem from the old silver mine on the mountainside overlooking the town. With the help of a strange preacher, a primordial evil is stirring deep in the bowels of the earth beneath the silver mine. With the very fate of Heaven and Earth hanging in the balance, a motley crew of local people seem to be the only ones who can save the world.
Mutt and Highfather may, or may not, be able to rely on the help of the Mormon mayor with his trove of mythical treasures, the leader of the local Chinese tong and a powerful but shady saloon owner whose family has owned the silver mine and surrounding land for many generations. But central to it all is Jim and a strange artifact that used to belong to his father.
John’s thoughts: Although fantasy and mysticism are not my usual shtick, it’s good to try something different now and then and this seemed like an unusual and interesting story. So I’m glad I gave it a go because The Six-Gun Tarot is a real melting pot of content and themes creating an entertaining read.
At its heart it’s a fantasy thriller set in the wild West, but it includes shades of mysticism, Chinese and Mormon mythology, Native Indian lore, theology, zombie-ism and Frankenstein! Oh, and it’s a coming of age tale. And did I mention the secret order of assassins? Sound intriguing? It definitely was.
What I like most about the story was the characters that Belcher created. The lead characters are complex, well developed and just flat-out interesting. This starts with Jim, Mutt and Highfather, but many of the supporting cast are also three-dimensional with lots of quirks to them. And come to think of it, some of the characters may have more than three dimensions.
If there was anything I wasn’t crazy about it was some of the religious mythology and underpinning of the tale, but this wasn’t too over the top and didn’t get in the way too much for me – and it did mean that we could have fallen angels added to the mix. One other minor niggle was one key thread to the story’s conclusion which wasn’t explained well (of if it was I missed it).
All in all this was a complex and fun mash-up creating a fast-paced, entertaining story. Although Fantasy really isn’t a big draw for me, I enjoyed this book and I’d rate it four star. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in urban fantasy, steampunk or “weirdo-Westerns”. (less)
A darkly intriguing mystery/romance and the second book in an action packed steampunk series. Including a brillia...moreOriginal review at Layers of Thought.
A darkly intriguing mystery/romance and the second book in an action packed steampunk series. Including a brilliant and strong willed female lead that goes against the Victorian-like social norms of the setting, and perhaps a glimpse of a “Jack the Ripper–ish” sort of villain.
*(SPOILER ALERT) Please note if you have not read the first in this series this review does contain spoilers. Read my review for Tarnished (book #1) and pick it up first. I believe that they are still selling the ebook version for .99 cents at various online retailers. What a deal!
About: In a realistic yet fantastical setting – a steam powered Victorian London - we have the second in this atmospheric series. The complex and strong main character, Cherry St. Croix, was once a circus waif and performer, giving her physical attributes which allow her to pursue and apprehend persons of greater strength and stature than herself. A petite red-head with striking thick hair which she covers with lampblack on her outings into the polluted city underworld, she is not of bad character. Her darkness is due to forced circumstance. She is addicted to Laudanum (a poppy -derived opiate that was popular during Victorian times) and is also what is termed a “collector” – where she finds wanted persons or information for nefarious others for a price. It’s her way to maintain her addiction and to prevent herself from going mad due to the constrained mores for women of the times. Cherry does her best to get by in this world where women aTarnishedre not allowed to own property and are considered wards of their male family members.
In the first book of the series (Tarnished) we become familiar with Cherry, her romantic entanglements, and find out that she is the daughter of a crazy scientist and a beautiful socialite. In this second book, Cherry is in pursuit of a killer (she thinks Jack the Ripper perhaps?) who is dissecting the underworld “sweets” (prostitutes.) However, she finds that there is in fact another killer – so another mystery ensues.
Thoughts: Karina Cooper writes in an old fashioned convoluted style in this series, which works very well for the setting. It creates text that feels authentic and Victorian-ish. I do need to mention that readers may have to consult Google when looking up some of the old fashioned English words the author uses. Even John (my UK/English dictionary/husband) had some difficulty telling me what several words meant. But this is all good. We both “learnt somefink”.
It also has another fun cover much like the first in the series. I am really glad there is not a naked guy or a lot of skin featured on it. Which brings me to mention that I liked the light and tasteful romantic involvement included in both books since there’s nothing worse than a sex scene that makes me laugh when it’s not supposed to.
What happens to Cherry as we find out more about her and her romantic interests is the best part of this story. Cooper does romance well. But most compelling is how the author sets up this book for the next in the series with it’s heart pounding, drop off the edge of your seat ending. So don’t expect closure, I am thinking the next in this series will have a “Kill Bill-ish” flavor set in steampunk Victorian times? I can’t wait.
Recommended for readers who like strong and dark female leads, unexpected twists, a bit of a murder mystery and of course romance and steampunk. Skip this if you are looking for a solid ending, want happily ever after, or are not interested in being addicted to a series. I enjoyed this book A LOT. It’s a fun second book to hopefully a long series. 4 stars. My only regret is that I am not reading this series after the entire collection has been completed. (less)
The first in a dark steampunk-ish themed series that is a fantastical re-telling of the classic Jane Eyre....moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
The first in a dark steampunk-ish themed series that is a fantastical re-telling of the classic Jane Eyre. Only it includes fey, dwarves, magic and a creative twist.
About: Set on the moors of an alternative yet familiar England-like world, Jane Elliot is a victim of a Great War against an illusive and ethereal fey. She is horrifically scarred on one side of her face. Covering it with an iron mask is the only way to prevent it’s dark magic from oozing emotions to everyone around her. Sadly, it’s an affliction common to many who have been injured in the war against the fey.
Inevitably life moves forward after the war, and Jane, in an attempt to avoid being a burden on her soon to be married sister, applies for a job as a governess – to the young daughter of the mysterious Edward Rochart, both who have been afflicted by dealings with the fey.
With the large household located near the forest (a known dwelling of the fey), it becomes apparent that there are comings, goings, and complications within the woods; and that perhaps the members of the Rochart household may have dealings within them. And as Jane falls deeply for the much older Mr. Rochart, she soon suspects that he may hold a key to healing her wound. She also discovers that he has more secrets than she wishes to believe, very much like the original Jane Eyre.
Thoughts:First off, I loved, loved, loved Jane Eyre. It was a rare five star for me. Having read it just several months prior to finishing this book made this re-telling even more fun for me. It felt like I was almost re-reading the original, only with a sparser language and with an added fantastical flair. Tina Connolly has a special way of writing which is very surprising and “retro” in flavor. It’s like a modern version of an old fashioned style which is suitable for a Victorian-like time period and similar to the original Jane Eyre. It was very refreshing. I also loved the setting – an alternative England with its lovely green moors that I too have a special connection to. Lastly, Jane Elliot is a strong female character, like the character Jane Eyre, which has a big appeal for me.
The only negative thing that I thought abound the book is that as I was nearing the end, I felt like it was just not going to be long enough. I was actually slightly nervous about it and kept thinking how the author was going to successfully manage to conclude the story without a “drop off the side of a cliff” ending. Or worse yet and impossible “dangler” which leaves the reader stranded. Happily it does have a satisfying conclusion which makes the book a decent stand alone read. But even better, it doesn’t have to be the end since there is a sequel in the works.
Labeled as young adult by a number of reviewers, I do think it will work better for adults. There are dark themes, some violence, and others which are adult in nature (some that teens may not connect well with). However, with its light romance (no sex) and clean language it will work for teens. Recommended especially for readers who enjoy dark fantasy, evil fey and magic set in a familiar world. I devoured this book and give it a 4-star rating. I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel. (less)
It’s a page-turning, action-packed steampunk murder mystery with even steamier romantic elements. It has...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
It’s a page-turning, action-packed steampunk murder mystery with even steamier romantic elements. It has a feisty lead character so it’s a perfect read for the fans of Gail Carriger – only it’s a bit darker.
About: Petite and feisty redheaded Cherry St. Croix is a bit tarnished. Orphaned at an early age, she is from an upper class family and lives comfortably with a variety of servants in her estate home - albeit as a ward to a never-present male benefactor, since women from this alternative Victorian period cannot own and are considered property. Darker still is that she is addicted to laudanum or opium depending on which is closer at hand; and she is a collector – a hired bounty woman who tracks down the wanted.
As she travels the polluted and sooty underworld of this different sort of London, she is asked to “collect’ a “ripper” who is killing local “sweets” (the most beautiful and desirable prostitutes) and taking their body parts for goodness knows what. It’s in the process of finding this insidious killer that she discovers darker things about her past; and sidesteps two romantic entanglements.
Thoughts: I really liked Cherry, the intelligent, tainted and strong main character who denies the existence of magic and only believes in science. It was also appealing that she is adamant about not wanting to get married, contrary to proper behavior for the time.
Although I really dislike comparing newer novels to wildly popular ones, I would say that this historical-ish novel felt quite similar to Gail Carriger’s Soulless, which I really enjoyed - although Tarnished is darker, less humorous, and has a more realistic setting than Carriger’s books. But like Soulless it includes science and gadgets, along with Victorian fashion and propriety, so it’s a genre-blender mystery story like Soulless.
My only niggle was that I had a slight problem getting into the author’s writing style at first. But I found it became easier after several chapters. And once I did I was completely hooked. I also want to mention that this first book is a cliff hanger, but what better way of starting off a series since it definitely created a desire to read the next in the series, even if I now have to wait.
Highly recommended for those interested in steampunk, historical romance, urban fantasy, murder mysteries, and especially for those who like strong female leads. It’s a 3.5 star read for me. I can’t wait for the second in the series.(less)