Book Review: Dawn in Damnation (Damnation Book 1) by Clark Casey

Damnation: a little Old West town somewhere between life and Hell where men and women (plus a vampire and some werewolves) who did bad but also did some good get a second chance to make it to Heaven---or at least that's what the residents speculate while they spend their days drinking, playing cards, and having gun fights. But then new people start arriving, a pregnant woman shows up with a living child in her womb, the sky starts changing, and weird things are happening in Damnation.

Book Review: Dawn in Damnation (Damnation Book 1) by Clark Casey | reading, books, book review, fantasy, paranormal, western
Title: Dawn in Damnation
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 186
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


*I won an ecopy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This has not influenced my review.*

I was, oddly, in the mood for some sci-fi/fantasy western—odd because I had never read a sci-fi/fantasy western before, or any western, unless you count one webcomic—so I was excited to read this.

A couple things threw me off a bit though, so I’ll get those out of the way first. For one, I’m not sure there was a protagonist. The guy mentioned in the blurb, Buddy, isn’t even the narrator. Plus, the narrator, Tom, was kind of all-knowing in that he seemed to know other characters’ thoughts and feelings. Normally this is something that would bother me, but somehow, with the way it was written in this book, it wasn’t confusing, and I was able to just accept it.

The other thing that threw me a bit was that the book meandered without a clear plot or goal; it was just kind of about the people and goings on in the town. I guess you could say the goal was just to keep Ms. Parker and her baby alive until the baby was born, but that’s still vague. Surprisingly, even though that’s another thing that normally bothers me, that didn’t bother me much either. At least not until I reached the end and the book suddenly cut off with no warning in a really weird place. I imagine there must be an overall story that will span the series at least though.

There were reasons I still enjoyed the book though, despite the issues. For one, the setting was interesting. Not only was it the Old West, it was even more lawless since it was set in the afterlife. There were good ol’ gun fights in the street, but characters also shot/stabbed/killed each other with no warning basically any time they felt like it (yes, they could die again). No one was ever safe, and there were no consequences for killing unless someone else decided it was a good reason to kill you too. But a word of warning, because it was set in the Old West, characters sometimes treated others in offensive ways in regards to race/gender/etc. It was fitting with the setting, but I wanted to point it out in case it’s something that will bother anyone.

There was also a lot in this book that was just effed up but that I couldn’t help but laugh at. Like how they would bet on when other people in the town would be killed, and the jokes about murder and dead men that would be in really poor taste if it were real life. Just know that this book is not for the easily offended or the faint-hearted. I also loved their ridiculous theories about the town.

Then there was the vampire, who was entertaining to me because he could’ve killed everyone in the town if he wanted to, but he didn’t because 1) since they were all dead already, their blood wasn’t any good to him, and 2) if he killed them all, he’d be alone and bored because literally his entertainment was sitting on his balcony and watching the people kill each other. He mostly just hissed at people and otherwise didn’t harm anyone unless they bothered him first. But imagine being hungry and having no food, except it didn’t kill you—you were just forever hungry. I mean, I’d be grumpy too! I’d probably also hiss at people, and I’m not even a vampire. He was just hangry, the poor guy. Then he became the kind of reluctant town protector, and I already have a weakness for vampires, so of course I liked him.

Buddy seemed like he was going to be really unlikable when he first showed up, but then I couldn’t help but like him too as the story went on. He was just so jolly and kind of oblivious to so much of the danger, but he was also really good at gunslinging, and he was the one who risked his life to stand up to the men for their violence against a woman.

Speaking of which, I definitely liked Ms. Parker. Especially her cleverness during that first card game. And she was great because she was soft and feminine, but she was tough in that she didn’t cower and was able to hold her own in this town. For a while, she was the only young woman in a town full of men who were on their way to Hell (so most didn’t have much in the way of morals)—I’m sure you can imagine why that’d be a bad situation. But she was clever and smart and proactive in figuring out how to survive and even saved the narrator at one point.

Mabel was actually a great female character too. Yeah, she immediately found the top gun and essentially slept with him in exchange for protection, but the reality in that town was that women didn’t survive without protection (unless maybe they were the fastest draw in town). So she made her own decisions, took matters into her own hands, and did what she had to to survive. And by the end, she came up with an even better solution that didn’t require sleeping with anyone.

I’m not sure how this review got so long, but I just have one last thing worth mentioning—there was even some disability rep since the narrator had a limp, though I can’t speak for whether it was portrayed well or not.

So overall, this book had a couple things that threw me off a bit, but it was an entertaining start to a series I plan to continue about a paranormal western afterlife with some likeable characters.


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  1. Greg

    I need more paranormal Westerns, I think. Or weird West (I like that little moniker lol). This one sounds so intriguing, and it seems gutsy to write a story that way, since yeah it would turn off some readers probably- the meandering plot and weird protag thing. A vampire that can’t feed is kinda fun, and yeah I’d be grumpy too.

    I hope weird west becomes a thing (or is it already?) because it’s so different. Urban fantasy w/o the urban?

    1. Kristen Burns

      They’re fun! I mean, you’ve read The Six-Gun Tarot, right? That’s Weird West too. But yeah, the protag/POV thing was a bit confusing at first. And lol, the vampire cracked me up, but I did feel bad for him w/ the lack of food!

      Well I just call everything that’s fantasy set in our world “urban fantasy” lol. But Weird West is definitely a thing. I feel like it’s a specific subgenre though that I’m not quite sure the definition of, so I don’t know if every SFF set in the Old West can be considered that or not?

      1. Greg

        Ooh I love labels ha ha. Seriously though yeah I like Weird West- has a cool ring. And I’ve noticed we’re seeing more and more stuff like that… a trend I can get behind! Good question though- I dunno? To me Weird West has to have a certain vibe, to be “weird” actually, but that’s probably just me. Like I don’t think some SF would qualify?

        Now I guess I need to look it up and see what people think. A good discussion post topic maybe- what the hell is Weird West lol?

        I DID read Six Gun Tarot and it was kinda the bomb? Like weird definitely applied. 🙂 See there it was a Lovecraftian element that made that WW for me… have you read the sequels? I did want to rad the new one, where Anne Bonny goes to Africa or whatever…

        1. Kristen Burns

          Exactly, I feel it has to actually be weird to be called Weird West. Or something. Idk. I just know I’ve read some SFF western books that I just wouldn’t classify that way.

          I have the second book but haven’t read it yet. I loved the characters, but the head-hopping drove me a bit crazy in the first, so I think that’s why I keep putting the second one off lol.

          1. Greg

            I kinda decided to skip the second one because I thought the Nevada town was cool, but the second one didn’t jump out at me, you know? Plus the third one had that amazing cover, and the lost city in Africa thing… definitely appealed to me more. Even though it’s not Weird West lol.

            1. Kristen Burns

              I’m the opposite. I’m not interested in the third one cuz it’s about Maude, right? And I just… don’t understand her character? Like, I don’t understand what she is or does or whatever her whole thing was. Maybe the second book will make me more interested in her, idk.

              1. Greg

                Was Maude the one who lived in Golgotha? Geez I’m fuzzy already on the book… she was the descendant of Anne Bonny? Clearly I should have taken notes…

                I probably should read 2 first anyway, it’s not like me to skip a book. But I am kinda interested in the historical Anne Bonny, having read a little about her, and that cover… 🙂

                1. Kristen Burns

                  Yeah she lived in the town, Mutt kind of liked her, she had a daughter. She was a descendant of someone who trained her or something? And she drank some blood and got some powers? Honestly, so lost. Just so lost as to what her story was lol.

                  I’m not even really sure what the 3rd book is about, I just thought I remembered the blurb being about her. It does have a great cover though!

  2. Barb (boxermommyreads)

    Okay so you’ve got my attention. First, an Old West afterlife? Sounds pretty cool. Secondly, effed up characters and situations that make you laugh? Finally, even though there seems to be issues, they don’t seem to interfere with your overall enjoyment. I think you’ve pretty much convinced me to give this one a try!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh yeah, this one does seem like it’d be your kinda book! The issues were there, but no, they didn’t seem to bother me much for some reason (once I got over the initial confusion of who the narrator was). I thought it was fun, hopefully you will too!

  3. Fran

    I’ll admit this is not a book I would enjoy, but it does seem an interesting concept as I’ve never heard of paranormal western. Glad you are happy to continue with this!

  4. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer

    This is fascinating… You finished it too! I would find the problems you listed quite problematic for me but then again the things you loved like the vampire are quite intriguing! I think I will pass but it was certainly entertaining to read your review! <3

    1. Kristen Burns

      Idk, they just didn’t really bother me once I got past the initial confusion. And it was just so much overall! No worries, not every book is for every person. Thanks!

  5. Olivia Roach

    I have been reading a lot of non-fiction lately that actually isn’t required for my course which is weird because I used to stay far away from that genre! I really love the setting of the Old West as well! It sounds like this one needed a bit more guidance though, like a strong center character or plot…

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh that’s interesting! I don’t read much nonfiction either, but there is some interesting stuff out there. Yeah, the Old West as a setting can be fun! Although I was a bit confused in the beginning of this one.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I mean, the setting alone isn’t enough for me either, but the Old West as a setting is something that attracts my attention and makes me more interested. Mash-ups are great for those iffy genres!

  6. Lola

    That does sound confusing how there wasn’t a protagonist, so that makes me curious how the book made that works so well. That can bother me sometimes when the plot seems to have no direction, but it seems to work here. You’re making me a bit curious about how this book handles those things that often would be annoying or bother you in books, but not here. The setting does sound interesting, although I haven’t read many Old West books. I remember one paranormal/ghost book that had an old west vibe and a great twist and ofcourse the tv series Firefly has that western feel.

    Now I feel bad for that vampire, that sounds the worst to be hungry all the time. i always get grumpy when i am really hungry. Sounds like a sad way to spend his afterlife. I can definitely understand hwy he hisses at people then. Ms Parker does sound likeable and that sounds neat how she handles her own and survives in that town. Great review!

    1. Kristen Burns

      The protag thing confused me at first because I didn’t know whose POV it was since it wasn’t the guy mentioned in the blurb. But once I figured it out, I was able to just roll with it. He was a person in the town, but he was kind of omniscient. The setting was fun though!

      Right?! I feel bad for him too, hungry all the time! I don’t blame him for hissing at people lol. Ms. Parker was great too 🙂 Thanks!

  7. Daniela Ark

    oh wow you have been in an old west mood lately huh? Even though I’m very intrigued by the concept of a paranormal western afterlife the lack of plot would kill me!

  8. Danya @ Fine Print

    I’m so torn on this one! It sounds kinda cool but also somewhat bizarre…but maybe that’s the point? Haha. Ms. Parker sounds awesome! I love it when a character can be soft and traditionally feminine but also a badass. I really like the idea of Weird West stories but I wish they didn’t have such consistently bad rep for Indigenous people and POC.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was somewhat bizarre, and I think maybe that was the point lol. It didn’t try to be too serious. It’s great when an author doesn’t make a character “strong” by taking away her femininity! A person can definitely be both! Yeah, Weird West does have the rep issue sometimes though.

  9. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    The premise of this book sound bizarre but the crazy cover appeals to me (who doesn’t love a weird vampire/cowboy cover?) but I don’t know if I’d enjoy it. Your review both intrigues me and puts me off, is that possible. Like, it sounds weirdly good, with a mix of characters and a totally original storyline, but then you say it meandered and it felt like there was a lack of clear plot which puts me off. I don’t even know. Your review covers the essentials and does intrigue me though so well done.