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A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files

Thursday, Oct 14, 2010 at 10:35am

"Reverend" Asher Rook is a Hexslinger, a man who can shatter nature's laws with magic. The Civil War bled the faith out of him until he ended up swinging from a rope and partnered with fierce killer Chess Pargeter. Pinkerton Ed Morrow has infiltrated Rook's gang trying to map the extent of Rook's power and find a way to detect Hexslingers before they manifest. But the goddess Ixchel, mother of all hanged men, wants Rook and Pargeter for her own purposes and outlaws and lawmen both will have to ride through Hell to stop her.

Rook and Pargeter are more than just outlaws and deserters, they are lovers. Their relationship a fierce blend of love, lust and loathing. Gemma Files doesn't shy away from emotional nor physical details, nor the prejudices and stigmas of the time. Rook and Pargeter are outlaws as much for their forbidden partnership as their criminal one.

This is the first book in Canadian horror author Files' Hexslinger series. There were Weird West stories before A Book of Tongues came along, just as Steampunk existed before Cherie Priest's Boneshaker or Scott Westerfield's Leviathan exploded onto the science fiction scene. Now, dirigibles and brass goggles are everywhere in SF, could spurs and Stetsons be far behind? Let's hope not, because I for one would love to see fantasy and western continue to bleed into one another and make something new.

There are mountains of myth and folklore surrounding the gunslinger era of American history. Gemma Files takes it, builds upon it and makes the period her own. A Book of Tongues captures the dirt and grit of the period in every scene, with cracking dialogue and description. You can smell the black powder and hear the pounding of hooves. A faithless preacher wielding the Bible like a spellbook and dead Mayan gods are given equal weight to Pinkertons and pistols.

Truly a remarkable, bloody and visceral read. Volume Two, A Rope of Thorns, can't come quickly enough.

See also: Territory by Emma Bull

Categories: Reviews, Staff Pick, SciFi & Fantasy, Horror

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