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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mini-Reviews: The Wolf In Winter by John Connolly & The Shotgun Arcana by Rod S. Belcher (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of “The Lovers” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of “The Whisperers” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of “The Burning Soul” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of “The Wrath Of Angels” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with John Connolly 
Why You Should Read John Connolly (A Fantasy Literature feature)

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: After the terrific and fatalistic events of The Wrath Of Angels, The Wolf In Winter was a highly anticipated title for me. This book leads on with certain pivotal events from The Wrath Of Angels however its main plot makes it a standalone read (for those who apprehensive to jump into a 10-plus books series). This book’s title though has more of a fantastical feel to it than any of the previous ones. One thing though there’ll be some spoilers for The Wrath Of Angels as I discuss certain plot points so don’t read ahead if you haven’t read the aforementioned title.

We begin with Parker, Louis, & Angel hot on the track of the Collector for his murder of Jackie Garner. The Collector or Kushiel as is his name, is not quite feeling up to his usual fatal self. He has always been the predator but never the prey and this new feeling isn't one he’s enjoying all that much. Parker is focused on ending the Collector’s murderous reign however the suicide of a friend of his pulls him back to Portland. Jude is a homeless man who’s been an ally of Parker for a long time. His suicide draws Parker away from his search and he’s rather stumped by it all.

Another odd thread to Jude’s suicide leads Parker to the small town of Prosperous that has its own customs, and quite a church as well. Jude’s daughter was last seen in Prosperous however the locals deny her presence and Jude was also deemed persona non-grata when he went there to find her. All of this pulls Parker’s empathetic strings and makes him head straight to Prosperous wherein he finds something crooked. Thus begins the story wherein we learn more about the historical sect of Family of Love, which was birthed in England and to escape persecution, came to the North American shores. They also brought something over that makes their church and town unique. Tied into all these happenings is the tale of a lone wolf who also comes into the woods around Prosperous and is the titular character of the book.

As with any John Connolly story, there’s never a simple straightforward tale. With this book, John explores a small historical sect of Christianity that had strange roots and even stranger customs. They also had a murderous rumor attached to their past that they couldn't quite shake off no matter how hard they tried. The story also features a stronger focus on Louis, Angel and a couple of other characters due to the story and that was simply fascinating to read. The story also continues a strong horror trend that has been so prevalent in the past couple of books. Within this story, the horror is nicely tied into a mythological bent and while a tad predictable nicely amped up the climax of the story.

One of the biggest twists of the story which occurs about halfway into the story really stumped me & the last chapter especially will have HUGE ramifications for the next saga in Charlie Parker’s life. The next book is titled A Song Of Shadows and believe me, once you are done with this volume. You won’t be able to wait to get your hands on it.  The Wolf In Winter is a very good thriller that will thrill John Connolly fans and makes sure that the series is still exciting. 

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Six-Gun Tarot
Read The Route To Golgotha by R. S. Belcher (guest post)

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Shotgun Arcana is the sequel to last year’s The Six-Gun Tarot. It was a book that Cindy and me both enjoyed and had big expectations from the author going forward. The Shotgun Arcana is the sequel to that fantastic debut and contrary to my worries; Rod Belcher has outdone himself with this solid sophomore effort. Also there'll be mild spoilers for The Six-Gun Tarot as I talk about the plot so be forewarned those who haven't read the previous volume.

The story begins set nearly a year after the troubled events that were shown in The Six-gun Tarot. The town residents have come back to a semblance of normalcy & managed to convince themselves that perhaps it was all a horrible nightmare. For certain residents like Jim who’s now a deputy sheriff along with Mutt and helping Jon Highfeather keeps everything under control. Maude had to sacrifice a lot (especially a big part of her legacy) to keep her daughter alive and save the world at the same time. Malachi Bick is back in Golgotha after his reappearance at the fag end of the events shown in The Six-gun tarot and is quite unpopular with the town folk due to his business tactics.

Harry Pratt the town mayor has settled down with his dual role as mayor and gay Mormon and also has a special weapon to keep him busy. Augustus Schultz is remarried but seeks to help his friend Clay Turlough (the resident mad scuientist). His second wife Gillian Proctor further does her best to help him avail his second chance at happiness. Then are quite a few new characters who are introduced and share familial and friendly ties to several POV characters. The big draw with with this story is the presence of a person familiar to Biqa/Malachi who has been given a similar task as him. This person though hasn't held up their share of the bargain and this has led to the spread of 32 teeth of Cain. These teeth seek out the very worst of human depravity and so there’s a whole host of killers coming towards Golgotha for something sinister.

There’s also a serial killer in the town who’s taken a clue from an infamous Whitechapel passerby who’s left a bloody stain on their past. This killer is striking havoc among the working girls of the town and seems to work in an invisible manner. Jon, Mutt and Jim will have to pool their brains as well take the help of all their friends to solve these murders and at the same time try to solve all their individual problems. There’s a bunch more stuff that’s combined with the main threads of this story that make this sequel such a fantastic read for me.

Beginning with the characterization, in review for The Six-gun Tarot, I had noted: “his prose and characterization upends this tale from simply a fantastic idea onto a fantastic story. The characters even though numerous hold their own and each of them alternatively convince the reader of their importance.” But with this sequel, Rod Belcher basically outdoes himself in the characters department. There are so many good ones: Augustus, Maude, Jon, Malachi, Jim, Clay, & a couple of the new ones introduced in this volume. Frankly at this point, I’ll be ecstatic if the author keeps writing further tales of Golgotha as there are several pointers in this story for future & past exploits.

There’s also quite a few historical references personas such as Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allen Poe, etc and events/organizations like the Donner Party and the Pinkerton agency. The author judiciously mixes historical nuggets within his story to make it seem oh so plausible and entirely delectable. This sequel is basically the book that convinced me that Rod S. Belcher is an author to watch out for. His imagination, writing style and characters simply have elevated him into that select group of authors whose books I will heartily keep recommending to all and sundry.

The Shotgun Arcana is a fabulous sequel that builds on the terrific premise that was laid out in the Six Gun Tarot. It is a book that right now is in my top three books for 2014 and this series as a whole deserves to be adapted for TV. Think of it as Wild west meets League of Extraordinary Gentlemen crossed with a little bit of Lovecraft and mixed in with superb characterization. If you haven’t read The Shotgun Arcana & its predecessor yet, you ARE missing out on a classic series in the making.


Greg Steele said...

Such wonderful books. I can't wait to read more! Sadly, his next two books will be non-Golgothan in nature, so we'll have to wait for more wild west weirdness. Mr. Belcher is currently writing a book called "The Brotherhood of the Wheel" about a secret society of truckers and bikers who protect America's highways from supernatural threats. I guess that will just have to hold me over until he convinces TOR to buy a Maude spinoff novel. =)

Anonymous said...

Ohhh, I'll go get both!

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