*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.*
I’ve come to love fantasy books set in the Old West lately, and this was certainly a fun one.
I loved the combination of the Old West and magic, how magic was just a normal, everyday thing. There were spells and talismans and sorcerers and magicked weapons and zoom tunnels (portals). And because there was magic, the world was altered a bit—there were agencies and divisions related to magic, there were stations where people could travel by zoom tunnel, etc. But there were also horses, ranches, trains, guns, gangs, and all that. I liked seeing how the fantasy aspect and the western setting blended. It was not a perfect world though, and the prejudice and colonization of the time were addressed as well.
Another thing I loved was the title object—the unique gun that kind of had a mind of its own. It can do things no ordinary gun can do, and it wants to do these things. It does have its drawbacks though, like the way it takes a year off its owner’s life (by aging them forward a year) every time they use it to kill someone, and the way it gets jealous if the owner tries to use any other guns.
But of course the gun needed someone to wield it, and that would be Hettie. Her desire to save her sister despite the danger was a little bit obsessive, but I think it made sense considering everything that happened at the start of the story. She was headstrong and stubborn and sometimes impulsive, but she was doing the best she could.
The rest of the characters were all unique and different—Ling, the mysterious healer who was treated poorly by most due to his ethnicity; Walker, the tall, dark, and handsome bounty hunter with some tricks up his sleeve; and Uncle, the shady but possibly good-hearted old coot who always knew more than he was letting on and was surprisingly good with magic. I was never quite sure who to trust, but I wanted to trust them all. Walker might be a love interest in future books, but there was no romance in this one, so I can’t say for sure. And oh, I can’t forget Cymon! He was not the brightest dog, but he was lovable. I didn’t really connect deeply to any of the characters, but I liked them, and I feel like there’s a lot of potential for the characters to develop more as the series goes on.
As for the plot and pacing, both were well-done with enough action and stakes to keep me reading, but not so much that it was exhausting. And while there were some violent, grim scenes and moments, I still found the book to be pretty fun overall in that action-packed, guns-and-magic-ablazin’ sort of way.
Also, just a note, there was a fair amount of violence in this book, but it was never described too graphically or with too much detail.
So overall, this was a fun, perfectly paced romp through a magic-filled Old West!
Anyone who likes the Old West, magic, headstrong heroines, and motley crews.