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Monday, May 30, 2022

TLSOMGC Blog Tour: The Last Stand Of Mary Good Crow by Rachel Aaron (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Rachel Aaron Website
Pre-order “The Last Stand Of Mary Good Crow” HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Forever Fantasy Online"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "FFO: Last Bastion"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "FFO: The Once King"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Nice Dragons Finish Last"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "One Good Dragon Deserves Another"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished"
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Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Last Dragon Standing"
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Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Part-Time Gods"
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Night Shift Dragons                                      Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "The Spirit Thief
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Rebellion” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit War” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Spirit's End"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Fortune's Pawn"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Honor's Knight"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Heaven's Queen"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's joint interview with Rachel Aaron & Travis Bach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Eli Monpress series completion interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Bach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Second Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read "Why A Nice Dragon" by Rachel Aaron (Guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rachel Aaron lives in Colorado with her family. She has graduated from University of Georgia with a B.A. in English Literature. She has been an avid reader since her childhood and now has an ever-growing collection to show for it. She loves gaming, Manga comics & reality TV police shows. She also posts regularly on her blog about publishing, books and several other intriguing things.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Hungry darkness, haunted guns, tunnels that move like snakes--the crystal mines of Medicine Rocks, Montana are a place only the bravest and greediest dare. Discovered in 1866, the miraculous rock known as crystal quickly rose to become the most expensive substance on the planet, driving thousands to break the treaties and invade the sacred buffalo lands of the Sioux. But mining crystal risks more than an arrow in the chest. The beautiful rock has a voice of its own. A voice that twists minds and calls unnatural powers.

A voice that turns men into monsters.

Mary Good Crow hears it. Half white, half Lakota, rejected by both, she's forged a new life guiding would-be miners through the treacherous caves. To her ears, the crystal sings a beautiful song, one the men she guides would gladly burn her as a witch for hearing. So, when an heiress from Boston arrives with a proposition that could change her life, Mary agrees to push deeper into the caves than she's ever dared.

But there are secrets buried in the Deep Caves that even Mary doesn't know. The farther she goes, the closer she gets to the voice that's been calling her all this time. A voice that could change the bloody story of the West, or destroy it all.

FORMAT/INFO: The Last Stand Of Mary Good Crow is 426 pages long divided over twenty-six character titled chapters. Narration is in the third person via Mary Good Crow, Tyrel Reiner, Josephine Price & Lieutenant Jean-Jacques Lucas. This is the first volume of the Crystal Calamity series.

June 1, 2022 marks the e-book  & paperback publication of The Last Stand Of Mary Good Crow and it is self-published by the author. Cover Art is by Luisa Prei├čler.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I was one of the lucky few to get an early copy of this completely new adventure from Rachel Aaron. First things first, the author describes it as an “epic fantasy of the west”. This should clue you in of the mayhem and magic to expect. This is an alternate history novel in which magic crystals have been discovered in the Montana territory of the nineteenth century. This has led to a crystal rush and these crystals have made men rich while also causing all sorts of issues. I was very gung-ho about this premise when I first got to read a few early chapters back in 2020. The way the story was framed and the settings was so rich that I was hoping that Rachel would explore more. So when she announced that she was releasing this story on June 1st, I was first in line inquiring about an ARC.

The story starts with the titular protagonist Mary Good Crow, she’s a half-Caucasian, half-Lakota guide who helps guide prospectors into the crystal caverns which have been discovered around the town of Medicine Rocks. She’s possibly one of the best guides as she’s able to hear the music of the crystals. However with her gender, comes danger and sexism due to which she has to keep aloof and thus is thought of as being not there completely mentally. Plus she doesn’t want her skills to be revealed and possibly be burned as an witch. We are next introduced to Josephine Price, who has travelled to Medicine Rocks, to claim her rights and she has a plan. The readers also get introduced to Tyrel Reiner, a hired gun with an agenda of his own (but not what you expect). There is one more POV character and a few more characters but I’ll let you RAFO.

For any readers of Rachel Aaron’s work, they know they can expect brilliant and morally good characters, a captivating plot with lots of twists and plenty of fun to be had. This new world that has been created is unlike anything Rachel has written about before. The story is a historical fantasy but in a time and place that we readers have been inundated with due to Westerns (books, movies & TV shows). The story is richly imagined and the author takes extra pains to show us the beauty and ugliness that was historically present in a frontier town. The author however also presents a world that has been upended by the crystals and a world that is a bit more historically accurate while not being grim. This was a huge plus especially as I am sure many readers do not want too much grimness in their fiction nowadays.

Why I thoroughly enjoyed this story is because the world that is presented, is a terrific one. While providing us with the known (western mining town scenario), the author also provides a terrific unknown scenario (the subterranean crystal mines). Most of the story is set in this subterranean world and there are so many wondrous things, which are showcased within. What I also loved was the characters beginning with Mary who’s resolute and honest and just so wonderfully nice. She’s one of the best protagonists that I’ve come across and possibly rivals Julius the nice dragon in being a wonderful champion for all that is nice, kind and just. Next we meet Josephine Price who’s an astute business woman but also brilliant and doing her best to fight the historical attitudes that were prevalent and especially since women weren’t considered equivalent to men. It was refreshing to read about Mary,  Joesphine and Lieutenant Jean-Jacques Lucas who are such good characters and so wonderfully nice that they make the story that much enjoyable. In this regards, it is always lovely to read stories where the morally good characters are human and yet strive to be the best and uplift everyone. In this age of cynicism, it's always refreshing to read about such wonderful people who are heroic in the face of adversity and yet so human with their quirks/foibles. 

The other POV characters have smaller roles but are equally important and help pivot the plot strongly. Lastly, it’s the minor non-POV character cast with Apache Jake, Volchitsa, Whitman brothers, Bernard Reiner, Mihir (yes you read that correctly) who etch their mark precisely on the story and possibly will have a bigger impact in the sequels. This is another striking feature of Rachel's writing that she writes both the heroic & villainous  characters so wonderfully that they are charismatic and believable all the same. 

The magic system is a very cool feature as there is a big mystery about the crystals. They have lots of magical features and there are so many additional benefits to them. But only the tip of a myriad magical surface is scratched in this series opener. There is a lot more going on similar to an iceberg and it’s only in the last few chapters do we get an inkling of the entire scope and it is breathtaking. At the very end I do have to highlight Luisa Priessler’s gorgeous artwork which make this cover stand out even more.

This story is set very much the set up and akin to the Lord Of The Rings, it promises to be an epic journey. For me, this book was another ace from a mind of a brilliant writer. Objectively I had very little to complain about it. Yes this book acts like a set up for a bigger story and so there will be some readers who might not enjoy it as much as they have enjoyed Rachel’s previous works. Secondly the ending has a couple of cliff hangers which do leave the readers hanging. Lastly there’s a lot of magic scenarios that aren’t explained and of course readers will have to be patient that the author has a grand plan.

CONCLUSION: The Last Stand Of Mary Good Crow is a fascinating start to a series that is billed as Deadwood meets Lords Of The Rings. I certainly think that is a good way to get people intrigued. I would say that this is possibly the best alternate historical fantasy that you will read and with a subterranean magical world that will leave readers wanting more! If you haven’t pre-ordered it already, get a jump on it. The Last Stand Of Mary Good Crow is a fantastic beginning and once again proves why Rachel Aaron is one of the most versatile writers of the SFF genre.


The Last Stand Of Mary Good Crow Blog Tour:

Thanks to Rachel Aaron and some amazing bloggers, Fantasy Book Critic is able to take part and initiate this review blog tour. This is the itinerary and you can look forward to some terrific reviews for this terrific title.

 Monday (May 30th) – Fantasy Book Critic
 Tuesday (May 31st) – Lynn's books blog
 Wednesday (June 1st) – FanFiAddict
 Thursday (June 2nd) – Before We Go Blog
 Friday (June 3rd) – Booknest
 Saturday (June 4th) – Novel Notions
You can checkout what Lynn, David, Beth, Charles & TS think about The Last Stand Of Mary Good Crow. Be sure to checkout all the stops in the rest of the week ahead.



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