I’m a fan of Harris’s writing – see my review of Midnight Crossroad here. So when a steady trickle of enthusiastic reviews turned into a stream, I alerted Himself, who decided to treat both of us to this offering. Our book budget for this year hasn’t been busted – more like broken beyond repair…
Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie.
And that is as much of the very chatty blurb that I’m prepared to share. I would add that the States is very different to our version, as it also includes a Russian enclave in this alternate history where the Romanov dynasty didn’t die in a basement in a hail of bullets, but instead survived to flee across the Atlantic accompanied by their magic-user, Rasputin. As for Texoma, think Wild West complete with bandits. It’s an interesting world, where life is cheap, travel exceedingly dangerous and luxuries such as electricity tend to be erratic. Each settlement or town seems to have its own set of laws that those passing through need to know.
I really liked the character of Lizbeth Rose, whose tough, self-reliant attitude helps her bounce back after the initial devastating incident at the start of the book, which puts her in the path of the two Russian wizards. Harris is good at making us care for her protagonists and I was quickly invested in Lizbeth prevailing against the odds. This dystopian, broken-backed landscape where the remains of metalled roads and ruins of houses pock the countryside should have given this book a more downbeat feel, but Lizbeth’s first-person narrative rescued this from being a grim, post-apocalyptic exploration of a destroyed civilisation. While she mentions such features, she’s matter-of-fact about the whole business, which happened before she was born. And besides, she’s too busy trying to keep herself and her clients alive to spend too much time brooding about the past.
Harris perfectly paces this adventure, so that we have plenty of time to appreciate what is at stake, before the situation flips around to heighten said stakes and once more Lizbeth is engulfed in yet more life-threatening action. It became physically impossible to put this one down, as I kept turning the pages as if my life depended upon it – and once I reached the end of the story, I felt drained and a tad shaky, suffering a real book hangover, which doesn’t happen very often to me, these days.
If you like your fantasy with a sideorder of wild west action and backdrop, then track this one down. I’m looking forward to seeing how this one plays out on TV, too…