Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Book of Tongues (Hexslinger, #1)” as Want to Read:
A Book of Tongues (Hexslinger, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read eBook

A Book of Tongues

(Hexslinger #1)

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  725 ratings  ·  142 reviews
Two years after the Civil War, Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow has gone undercover with one of the weird West's most dangerous outlaw gangs-the troop led by "Reverend" Asher Rook, ex-Confederate chaplain turned "hexslinger," and his notorious lieutenant (and lover) Chess Pargeter. Morrow's task: get close enough to map the extent of Rook's power, then bring that knowledge back t ...more
Paperback, First Edition, 274 pages
Published April 15th 2010 by ChiZine Publications (first published January 1st 2010)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  725 ratings  ·  142 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Book of Tongues (Hexslinger, #1)
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: czp
the world is my oyster and this book is my olive.

i do not like olives.

but everyone else likes olives. and i have tried time and again to understand olives. i have eaten them in different contexts, and have willed myself to like them, but to no avail. they are just not for me. and it's weird because i like capers and pickles and marinated artichokes etc. but not olives.

this book has very high ratings here on the, so i know that it is simply me and my shortcomings preventing me from
The Shayne-Train
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
So....shit...the star-rating for this was fluctuating while I was reading this. If GoodyReedz had half-stars, this would have been a solid three-and-a-half stars. But there are no halves, so I rounded right the fuck up.

That being said, I should have loved this book. Ultra-violence in the Weird West. Cowboys and cussin' and magic and old gods and graphically hot gay sex. C'mon. I think it must be me, because this book was playing all the right notes. I just couldn't get into the tune.

The writing
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
Jun 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers of dark fiction and supernatural horror in the west
For a full review, check the Bitten by Books website: ...more
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2016
5 Stars

A Book of Tongues (Book one of the Hexslinger series) by Gemma Files is a triumph in originality, kick ass violence, and a fantastic addition to the urban fantasy world. This book works on the world building and the magic. This is a western, an alt history fiction, a steampunk, and a new weird book rolled up into one. It is also a graphically sexual novel. I admit that the sex turned me off at first, not because it details the relations between two men, but simply due to the fact that I f
This was a bit of a tough one. Wildly inventive, beautifully written... but sometimes a bit hard to follow, and suffering from an acute case of the too-many-awesomes-itis.

I mean, I love gunslingers, and magical woo-woo, and Mayan death gods, and corrupted preachers, and historical au's, and gay romance, and apocalyptic westerns as much as the NEXT girl... but maybe there's just a little bit too much going on here for one book? Seriously... I think that the ideas and concepts stuffed into this b
Don Bradshaw
Reviewed on Hearts On Fire...

Damn this book was one wild ride and definitely not the kind of western Grandpa read. Set a couple of years after the civil war, Asher Rook is a powerful hexslinger or sorcerer. With his lover and budding hexslinger, Chess Pargeter, they and their gang of outlaws wreak havoc in the old west. Rook's magic is unstoppable and what Rook seems to miss, Chess just shoots. A Pinkerton agent, Ed Morrow, is sent to infiltrate Rook's gang to g
Nov 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of steampunk, m/m, Weird West
Recommended to Katy by: NetGalley
Please note: I read this book in November, 2011 from an e-galley I received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Info: Genre: Weird Western/Supernatural Horror/Steampunk
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of Weird West, horror, those interested in Meso-American religious practices
Trigger Warnings for Book 1: Murder, violence, fairly graphic M/M sex, drug abuse, suicide, rape (m/m; f/m with woman as instigator), human sacrifice

My Synopsis: “Reverend” Ash Rook and Chess Parge
Jason Bradley
Jul 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: m-m, ebook, fantasy, paranormal
3.5 stars

I really enjoyed this story and would have given it higher marks except that I didn't care for how the events were told out of sequence. I have enjoyed other books where this is done but something about it didn't work for me as well in this story. That said, this was a great story and I am already on to the sequel.
wanderer (Para)
DNF 41%

I'm not sure I ever marked it as reading cause it was started during the messy period when I was picking up every book at once, but I put it down about a week ago and have no desire to finish it or pick it up again.

It's simply not a very good match for me. Reading about a murderous psychopath who cares about nothing except his boyfriend (think Jorg but older and gay) was interesting, but the relentless racism and homophobia and transphobia of the setting wore me down. From the Chinese cha
May 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book is a mess. I picked up the book expecting some weird west action, and instead got bloody outlaw erotica with some magic thrown in.

The first third of the book is a jumbled knot. The narrative jumps all over the place in terms of the past. We start in the present, then two years ago, and back to the present. Then to a specific event more than two years in the past. Back to the present. The next is nine months before that point. Then months after the specific event, and that's where the
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reread, read-2018
5 Stars

Reread before moving on to book two.

Original Review...

A Book of Tongues (Book one of the Hexslinger series) by Gemma Files is a triumph in originality, kick ass violence, and a fantastic addition to the urban fantasy world. This book works on the world building and the magic. This is a western, an alt history fiction, a steampunk, and a new weird book rolled up into one. It is also a graphically sexual novel. I admit that the sex turned me off at first, not because it details the relation
May 22, 2010 rated it liked it
This debut novel (first of a trilogy) by a very talented Canadian short story writer takes place a few years after the US Civil War. A former Reverend become Hex (witch) and his out of control lover and their outlaw gang are about to bring death and destruction to a monumental scale with the “help” of ancient gods who ware using them.

Initially, I found the hypersexuality of the main characters somewhat off-putting but gradually came to accept it as part of the sex-magic engine of the plot.

Oct 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
(Re-posted from

I follow and read a lot of book review blogs. Like, a lot. Sometimes I feel like I read more book reviews then, you know, actual books. Some people question the worth of reading reviews, because after all books are highly subjective and what one person likes you might not and so on. But I think you have to approach reading reviews in the right way. I mean, if there’s a reviewer whose tastes always line up with yours then you might avoid a book j
You should probably be reading this.

It is a fantastic, lovely, deeply character-driven story of hexes (people with inborn magical talents), dead gods, and a fantastically weird west. I am incredibly glad that I already own the next book in the series, and want very much to grab the third.
Wahiaronkwas David
Aug 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes wicked good horror, and isn't squeamish.
Recommended to Wahiaronkwas by: I've read the author's previous works.
Now, I have to say at the outset, that I'm not very good at writing reviews. Oh, I could probably do a thorough look at characterization, scene-setting, tone, accuracy... but seriously, if I couldn't get into the book from the start, going through all that would be harder than hell. And if I did get into the book, I have a problem of sounding way too fan-girly to make a coherent review.


Here is what I enjoyed about A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files.

The world she creates just is. She does not tr
K. Lincoln
Mar 30, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a hard book to review. Not surprising because it was a hard book to read and digest in the first place.

Set in the old west at the end of the Civil War, it mostly concerns three men and an Aztec composite goddess. Two of the three men are criminals, ex-soldiers who were sentenced to hang for the crime of killing a crazy Confederate Captain who, despite the war being over, wanted to lead his men on a suicide charge.

Asher Rook, ex preacher, gets hanged. Only he doesn't die all quiet like. I
I'm not sure how to rate this book, and reserve the right to change my mind later.

The good: the writing is powerful, poetic without (often) turning purple. In Files's hands, scenes of body horror and guro become almost beautiful despite stomach-churning amounts of gore. Almost, and yet they never lose their edge. The Wild West setting comes alive as well, and I love all the alternate history touches.

The bad: Zana and I have an ongoing difference of opinion about whether media requires likable ch
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ladywritten, 2011, specfic
Half the pleasure I got from this book came from its salty epithets. These are cowboys of the weird (aka alternative) West, wrangling with gay wizards and Aztec blood goddesses and plenty else. They talk almost as rough as Shakespeare. Some samples (using spoiler tags to shield tender eyes from bad language):

(view spoiler)
Robert Beveridge
Aug 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Gemma Files, Hexslinger, vol. 1: A Book of Tongues (ChiZine Publications, 2010)

I had somehow gotten it into my head (and onto my spreadsheet) that A Book of Tongues was Gemma Files' first young adult novel. That particular misconception lasted exactly three pages into this bloody, profane, ugly, violent, utterly enchanting western. For the second time this issue, I'll throw out the disclaimer: there's no way I can write a biased review about a Gemma Files book. While she hasn't quite earned a sp
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Review to come.
Jul 30, 2010 rated it liked it
I was excited to read A Book of Tongues on just the mention of the “weird west” in the book’s description. My love of Pinnacle’s Deadlands setting certainly fueled my interest even the title of the series this books kicks off Hexslinger reminded me of Deadlands so I was certainly excited to dive into my A Book of Tongues with my past experiences with the weird west as impetus. Nostalgia is always a dangerous thing and I’m uncertain how much what I hoped the novel would be colored my interaction ...more
Jesse Bullington
Jun 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I do this thing a lot where I delay reading a text for fear of it influencing a project I'm working on. Said influence could be an actual similarity of content, but more often than not it's for fear of something more nebulous; theme, maybe, or a dynamic between characters. How do I know if such things are present if I don't read said texts, and since I'm such a pain in the ass about avoiding spoilers? A smell, maybe, or a tingling in the sole of my right foot? No, something even less tangible th ...more
Mar 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
Bad people do bad things because they're bad and/or special, possibly bringing about the end of days. Also, they have sex described in not particularly enticing fashion. So. there's that.

Much has been made about how gritty and un-PC this book is. Worth noting: the three main characters are all white men who interact with Chinese, Native, Aztec cultures by disparaging, trampling or even cannibalizing them for power. As well, the protagonists fling sexist language, homophobic and even anti-semitic
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: status-borrowed
Two years after the Civil War, Pinkerton agent Ed Marrow goes undercover with a dangerous outlaw gang lead by Rook, a Reverend turned hexslinger, and Chess, skilled gunslinger and Rook's lover. In a version of the Wild West where magic is a real and present danger, Rook is an even bigger threat: he is haunted by an Aztec goddess with her sights set on bringing gods back into the world. A Book of Tongues is, perhaps, one of the most unique books I've ever read. Hexslingers mingling with gunslinge ...more
Andrea Blythe
Feb 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A Book of Tongues is a wonderfully brutal read, all the more so, because Gemma Files manages to finagle sympathy for what could otherwise be a rather unsympathetic group of characters. Many of these characters are not what you would call nice. Chess is an unapologetic murderer; Rook is desperate and ruthless; and even Morrow is a liar.

Files' merciless prose reaches out and reveals what they're made of as each of these rough-shod gentlemen is trapped, bound like a fly into the webbing of the stor
Missy Ann
Sep 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first thought I was able to put into words upon finishing this book was "LSD fueled coherent nightmare". And I'm going to stick with that impression.

The author drops us boots first into a slightly skewed West where the more you see the more you realize that something just isn't right. A Book of Tongues is not a fantastic tale of wizards in the old west. Oh no, this book is a tale of blood and horror.

Every single character is unlikeable. That's not to say the characterizations are bad, becaus
Jun 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror, own, alt-history
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Files is an intensely visceral writer, delivering fantasy/horror with the glee of a razor-wielding psychopath; just the thing for my Clive Barker kick. But enough about Barker, Files is her own author, and while the similarities are there (Rook reminds me completely of Barker's Nix, another magician with delusions of godhood), Barker has only laid the groundwork for the next generation, a generation Files could prove herself a leader. She is equally fearless in gore, grotesqueries, and sex (boy, ...more
Sep 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Disjointed, vivid, unclear, complex, immerse prose that fascinates but doesn't necessarily satisfy me. The rough, blunt passion between Rook and Chess is fabulous; I loved the characters. The blend of Aztec mythology with old western history was extremely well-done; I could have happily read much more detailed description there. But I could never lose myself in this writing style. It was too ambitious, too off-balance, pages full of sentences so choppy I resorted to skimming dialog, pages full o ...more
Michael Healy
I was quite impressed with how Gemma Files created a story that is apealing in everything from simplified concepts (Gay wizard outlaw ressurects dead Aztec Gods) to a more in depth and spoiler ridden look at the story. Everything from the flawed tragic characters through to the vaugely but hauntingly explained magic system permiates the world with a rich atmosphere of darkness both worldly and alien.

Initially I was aprehensive due to the seemingly unrepentantly evil lead characters being gay and
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Sefira and Other Betrayals
  • The Affair of the Mysterious Letter
  • Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5)
  • Looking Glass (The Chronicles of Alice)
  • Time and Again (Time, #1)
  • The Remaking of Corbin Wale
  • Riven (Riven, #1)
  • Rend (Riven, #2)
  • The Toll
  • The Twisted Ones
  • Lola Dances
  • Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth's Lost Civilization
  • The Early Cases of Akechi Kogoro
  • Holy Blood, Holy Grail
  • Growing Things and Other Stories
  • Beguiled (Enlightenment, #2)
  • A Dead Djinn in Cairo
  • Love Me (Rutledge Brothers #1)
See similar books…
Previously best-known as a film critic for Toronto's eye Weekly, teacher and screenwriter, Gemma Files first broke onto the international horror scene when her story "The Emperor's Old Bones" won the 1999 International Horror Guild award for Best Short Fiction. She is the author of two collections of short work (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart) and two chapbooks of poetry (Bent Under N ...more

Other books in the series

Hexslinger (3 books)
  • A Rope of Thorns (Hexslinger, #2)
  • A Tree of Bones (Hexslinger, #3)

Related Articles

Victor LaValle knows his way around a scary tale or two. He's the author of the horror novels The Ballad of Black Tom an...
75 likes · 22 comments
“Morrow's rush of disgust, temporary as it might prove, had nothing to do with the truths-turned-insults flung out. No. What riled Morrow ran far deeper - was the sheer perversity of Chess's own nature, that unbreakable wilfulness he'd always revered in himself, as sign and source of his own freedom. His stark refusal ever to be bound, to obey aught but his own whim and want.

Because while he could walk free and hold a gun Chess Pargeter answered to no man - no man, no law, no damn body, motherfucker. No ideal, no cause, no force but sheer chaos, bound and determined to move unimpeded and burn for the sake of burning. To never submit himself to ghost or hex or priest or even God, 'less he damn well wanted to.

No man except Ash Rook, that was - for a time. And after this last betrayal, from now on... not even him.

'Course not, Morrow's anger spoke back, unimpressed by Chess's well-tuned inner litany. That's 'cause you're nothing but a brat who never grew up - a skillet-hopping little hot-pants who knows everything 'bout killing and nothing at all 'bout living. Who spits on friendship, duty and honour not 'cause he's above them, so much as 'cause he don't know what they even mean - same way you don't really grasp how anything's real, 'cept if you want it, or it hurts you. And that's why you ended up givin' everything you had to a man who skinned you alive, then left you stranded down in Hell - 'cause he was what you wanted, and Christ forbid Chess Pargeter ever admit what he wanted was a goddamn bad idea. You made it easy for him, Chess, you damn fool. 'Cause you couldn't believe you deserved anything better. And me? I'd never do that to you, or anyone. Never.
“The day Chess Pargeter looks t' engage himself with any woman's situation'll be a cold one in the Hot Place for sure” 0 likes
More quotes…