This is a Wild-West-With-Magic book that starts at 100mph and doesn’t let up. Two chapters in, I was already hooked.
There’re enough things here that are familiar from Westerns that you slide into the world easy but enough that’s different or unknown that your curiosity stirs itself, sniffs the air and says “Feed me.”
The protagonist, Hettie Alabama is an easy to like seventeen-year-old girl with grit and a tomboy attitude. The baddies deserve to die. And there’s a shadow of menace that I could feel from the start.
I liked that the challenges that Hettie meets and the things she learns about her family’s past change her in believable ways. She was always tough and brave. She becomes more ruthless and less trusting. I also liked that her only focus was rescuing her sister. Hettie has no interest in romance.
The Weird West world-building is very well done. This is a West were magic, charms, amulets, sorcery of different types, is an everyday thing. The use of magic is taken for granted and become as much a part of the West as the railroad and the telegraph. This version of the West is not a nostalgic one. It’s filled with violence, corruption, racism, misogyny and the routine abuse of power. I liked the I built up a clear picture of the world as I read the book but that I know there’s more for me to learn in the rest of the series.
The baddies in this book are truly terrible people. The merciless brutal violence they meted out by the main gang at the start of the book is eclipsed only by the scale of the evil the man the gang works for is committing. These weren’t the kind of pantomime baddies that you hiss and boo at. They were the sort of people you hope you never have to meet.
The demonic revolver that sits at the heart of the story is a great concept. It’s not as simple as it first sounds and Hettie’s relationship with it is pleasingly ambiguous.
The plot keeps a fast pace throughout while throwing surprises and threats that kept the excitement high. The book was a bit like the Devil’s Revolver – it wasn’t nice but once I picked it up, I didn’t want to let go of it.
I’ll be back for the rest of Hettie Alabama series.