oh my god, i had so much freaking fun reading this book.
so, when i was little, my parents would dump me off at the library whenever they had one of those “kids make crafts” days and i’d be all wide-eyed at the tables full of pom poms, pipe cleaners and stickers thinking “free craft shit? for realz??” and i would greedily snatch up all the powder blue velvet ribbon and shiny silver spangles and plastic sparkle beads and i’d end up making some liberace-blob of glitter confusion because i never stopped to consider how everything would look together; i just wanted all the individual components to be mine, so i’d invariably end up with some tacky monstrosity. this is the difference between a hoarder and an artist – you can grab up all the shinies you want, but those parts need to blend into a harmonious whole. and this book, while it does have monsters in it, is in no way a monstrosity. michelle modesto went all grabby-handsing into those button buckets, but she made something magnificent out of her components, despite how mishmashy it sounds. it’s a young adult paranormal steampunk western with cannibal con artists, belligerent leprechauns, excitable pet chupacabras, a little bit of love and a whole lot of killin’. it’s being marketed as “true blood meets true grit,” but it’s probably more accurate to market it as “every fun book you have ever read ever” just to cover all the bases.
does it have cannibals? YES!
does it have a weaponized parasol? YES!
does it have zombies? YEAH IT KINDA DOES!
does it have a love triangle?? okay, that’s a trickier question, because it does and it doesn’t. we will return to that.
what this also has is huge crossover appeal into the adult urban fantasy market.
oh, and huge balls.
so, quick basic plot-stuff: when our heroine westie was a little girl, her parents, little brother, and right arm were eaten by a family of cannibals when her own family was separated from the rest of their wagon party. westie managed to escape and was found by the wintu huntress bena, who used the healing properties of her tribe to save westie’s life. she lived among the wintu until she was adopted by nigel; an inventor originally from africa, who created a mechanical arm to replace the one that was eaten; an arm powerful enough to bend metal and crush bone. awesome. our story takes place in rogue city, where werewolves, elves, and other creatures live alongside humans underneath a protective, but permeable dome, powered by more of that wintu magic.
westie has grown up wild and stubborn, single-mindedly focused on locating and killing the cannibals who ate her family. she finally gets her opportunity for revenge when a very wealthy and familiar-looking family comes to rogue city to invest in nigel’s latest invention. this invention’s true function is the only way to preserve rogue city’s magic and protect westie’s friends, so – dilemma: personal vendetta vs. greater good vs. small portion of self-doubt because westie has mistakenly cried “family-eater” once before. plus there are all these smaller obstacles like the seductive lure of alcohol and its blessed emotional cushioning, the annoyance of a coming-out ball in her honor with all its irritating corsetry, and her conflicting feeeeelings about all these boys!
okay, so it’s not quite like that, but this is where that sorta love triangle comes into play. with some adjustments.
westie’s just your average foul-mouthed seventeen-year-old girl with a mechanical arm and a thirst for booze and vengeance. she’s into alistair, the boy in the mechanical mask who, like westie, is the damaged survivor of a cannibal attack who has been adopted and modified by nigel. but there’s also costin the vampire, a couple of the wintu boys, the dandy newcomer james, and they’re all pretty much fascinated by westie on one way or another, with her tough talk and soft heart. and since alistair’s being all aloof, westie’s gotta acknowledge her options, even if she doesn’t act on them. much. she is a powerhouse and a trainwreck both, and she attracts attention, whether that attention be in the form of love, lust, respect, fear, awe, or horror. but she’s not some flirtatious tease, some swanning jade manipulating all the boys with her sex appeal. westie spends most of the book sweaty and smelly, drunk, fighting, puking, eating with her mouth open, tripping over her dresses and bitching about being trussed up like a fowl.
this is the basic level of her game:
Westie let loose the belch that’d been stalking up her throat and reached down the front of her sweaty bodice to scratch an itch between her breasts.
so she’s not your typical dreamgirl.
but she might be mine.
i can’t even get into this review – there’s nothing i can say that’s not just gonna be me giving high-fives all up in it. i love the characters, the setting, the energy, the vulgarity and the whole cocky attitude of it. this is a really assured debut novel that probably wants you to like it, but is confident enough to not give a shit if you don’t.
but you will.
one more quote because it thumbs its nose at some of the ridiculous conventions of romantic fantasy and made me giggle:
When she was young he used to sit in that very chair, crossing his legs just like he was doing right then. His stories were always about the things she’d loved: castles and dragons, slaying evil with broadswords. Though she loved the medieval subjects, Nigel was a terrible storyteller. His characters were flat – the maidens were always beautiful, helpless half-wits, and the heroes handsome and perfect, when she knew darn well that after traveling for days to rescue the princess from her tower, they probably stank like pigs and were in need of a good shit.
ho. lee. shit.
i am so freaking in love with this book! i can’t wait to review it, but there’s too much life happening right now to do it any justice. so i just came here to brag, i guess. ‘cuz i just read a really fun book, guys…