3 out of 5
Cannibals and the Wild West mixed with magic. Yeehaw!
Westie has spent all of her life searching for the family of cannibals that slaughtered her mother, father and brother and ate one of her arms. She has been outfitted with a mechanical arm invented by her step-father Nigel, and is joined in many of her misadventures by Nigel’s assistant Alistair (who has had his throat ripped out by cannibals), and her magic-wielding, native friend. As a side plot, magic is being drained out of the land and Nigel has invented a machine that will put it back, but he is hard-pressed to find investors.
My main bone of contention with this book is just how much it had going on. You had Westie’s thing with the cannibals’, Nigel’s thing with the magic, various romances happening, and a whole bunch of werewolves and vampires sprinkled on top of everything. Some authors are able to take radically different genres and mash them together, but this time it didn’t work so well. I would have loved to read about Westie and Alistair hunting cannibals OR I would have loved to hear about a down on his luck inventor trying to save magic and hunt down financial backing OR I would have loved an old-west story with vampires and werewolves and other mythological creatures. Put all together it just gets too busy.
Part of the busyness is just too many characters that are not being explored deeply enough. We learn Westie is fiesty and the vampire she is interested in is seductive and Alistair is shy and the society boy she is interested in is kind of arrogant, but it does not go a lot deeper than that. Inner dialogue and characterization are glossed over to get to more action, but because of that we never really get deep motivations for anything. Yes, Westie hates cannibals because they ate her parents, but I really didn’t get a sense of the deep hurt and anguish this caused. Nigel rescued her and repaired her arm, but their relationship is never fully developed. None of them are.
Westie also jumps from romantic attachment to romantic attachment with barely a flinch. There are 3 different love interests, but we know them so little and Westie herself seems to care so little is less a romantic interlude than a tedious side plot that interrupts all the other plots going on.
That being the main criticism, it is a neat world. Steampunk mixes with Western mixes with Fantasy somewhat tensely, but I am glad someone tried it. This book definitely has a “shoot from the hip, walk into a saloon and order a whisky, tumbleweed on the prairies” feel to it that is hard to find in fantasy and Steampunk books. It is an imaginative take on 3 things that don’t usually collide.
I would give this one a try just for the novelty, but it is not something I am likely to revisit again. Also, the cannibalism made me a little queasy. Just a warning!