Outlaws and Worse, Jonathan Eaton’s followup to A Good Man for an Outlaw, is everything we hope for in a sequel and much more. While continuing the story of Deputy Hayes, the pharmacist Fowler, and the outlaw Mathew Mulkey, it weaves a new tale with outrageous characters. It’s a story both droll and dark, told in chapters that deceptively head out into strange and unexpected territory, only to come gliding back to the main narrative like a flock of vultures circling in the Texas sky, awaiting the call to dinner.
Make no mistake–Eaton is serving us another helping of “Western noir,” dark as a cup of black coffee, but sweetened with a cream of Coenesque humor. The characters are deliciously weird, their personal stories, funny and shocking. The novel is well-edited and the writing is crisp and clear. My only quibble is that one minor character in a short chapter speaks in a phonetically-rendered dialect, which I found somewhat difficult. But no harm done. The book remains a solid five stars. I highly recommend it.
I recently read a book of urban fantasy I really liked, Ravensblood by Shawna Reppert. Here’s the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads:
Ravensblood is the first of a series, the fourth book of which is scheduled for publication in September. Shame on me for only just now catching up with it!
Reminiscent of Prohibition-era Chicago under the lethal thumb of a crazed Al Capone, the city of Portland cowers before the ruthless dark mage William. The three communities–the Mundanes, the Art, and the Craft–are in league against him, but fear they cannot match his strength. Their unlikely ally is Corwyn Ravenscroft–Raven–a man the Art rejected from their Academy. Taken in by William and schooled in the Dark Arts, he is a wanted criminal. But Raven has had a change of heart. Appalled by William’s brutality and bloodshed, he commits himself to destroying the dark mage, even if he forfeits his own life in the process. His only help may be Cassandra Greensdowne, his former apprentice and lover, who is now a Guardian, a member of the special police forces tasked with combating magical crime. And Cass hates all Raven has become.
Author Shawna Reppert has created a multi-layered alternate Portland. You will recognize the streets and the weather, but there the similarity ends. Magic abounds, but it is so entirely believable, the reader soon forgets it’s magic. In fact, the magic is just the context for a superb study of psychology and motivation. Reppert’s characters are so exquisitely drawn and emotionally complex that the reader begins to care deeply about them. We become immersed in their world–fearing what they fear, hoping what they hope, loving what they love. What would have been only another urban fantasy novel in the hands of a lesser writer, Reppert has elevated to the status of literature. She reminds me why I love to read really good fiction.
Click here for a free sample of it: Ravensblood.