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A Book of Tongues Volume 1 of the Hexslinger Series Paperback – April 27, 2010

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Frequently Bought Together

A Book of Tongues Volume 1 of the Hexslinger Series + A Rope of Thorns: Volume 2 of the Hexslinger Series + A Tree of Bones: Volume 3 of the Hexslinger Series
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Product Details

  • Series: Hexslinger (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: ChiZine Publications; First edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0981297862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0981297866
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,199,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A Pinkerton detective infiltrates a Wild West gang led by a spell-casting preacher in this boundary-busting horror–fantasy debut. Agent Ed Morrow is dispatched by a professor of magical research to evaluate the hexslinging abilities of Rev. Asher Rook, a renegade chaplain who survived his own hanging, and his lover, the prickly sharpshooter Chess Pargeter. As Morrow becomes part of the gang, the Aztec goddess Ixchel slowly seduces Rook into a bloody ritual marriage that endangers Pargeter and leads their followers down a road to hell. Files smoothly weaves an unusual magic system, Aztec mythology, and a raunchily explicit gay love story into a classic western tale of outlaws and revenge. Though it grows somewhat cumbersome in the leadup to a cliffhanger that demands resolution in the planned sequel, this promising debut fully delivers both sizzling passions and dark chills. (May)
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Gemma Files writes her words and her images as deftly as a straight razor, slicing so surely that the reader is not even aware that the protective skin of his imagination has opened into two neatly divided flaps, (with) a few seconds of red grace before the pain comes and the screaming begins. ----Michael Rowe, editor of Queer Fear I and II

Boldly, brazenly, Gemma Files pushes her hands deep into the red and seeping unconscious places and finds the bits of treasure worth pulling back out into the light. ----Caitlin R. Kiernan, author of THE RED TREE

More About the Author

Born April 4, 1968, in London, England, Gemma Files is the child of two actors (Elva Mai Hoover and Gary Files), and has lived most of her life in Toronto, Canada. Previously best-known as a film critic, teacher and screenwriter, she first broke onto the horror scene when her short story "The Emperor's Old Bones" won the International Horror Guild's 1999 award for Best Short Fiction. Her current bibliography includes two collections of short work (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart, both Prime Books) and two chapbooks of poetry (Bent Under Night, from Sinnersphere Productions, and Dust Radio, from Kelp Queen Press). Her first novel, A Book of Tongues: Volume One in the Hexslinger Series (CZP), was published in April 2010. The trilogy is now complete, including sequels A Rope of Thorns (2011) and A Tree of Bones (2012), and she is hard at work on her first stand-alone novel. Files is married to fellow author Stephen J. Barringer, with whom she co-wrote the story "each thing i show you is a piece of my death" for Clockwork Phoenix 2 (Norilana Books). They have one son.

Customer Reviews

Also the book is too explicit, and to me it's explicit for the sake of it.
I'm just not feeling connected to any of these characters, and it makes it hard for me to want to pick up the book and finish it.
Kate S. Davis
A Book of Tongues is, perhaps, one of the most unique books I've ever read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Terry Weyna on September 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
A western horror story full of gay gunslingers and the Pinkerton men they seduce - sometimes you can understand why people ask writers where they get their ideas, because Gemma Files sure had a humdinger of one with this first novel. Throw in some Mayan mythology and a lot of magic, and you've got a plot that comes at you so fast and furiously that you have to put the book down just to catch your breath.

A Book of Tongues is Volume One of the Hexslinger Series, to be continued (soon, I hope) in A Rope of Thorns. Two characters dominate this volume: Chess Pargeter, an incredible shot who thinks as little of killing another man as you or I think of killing a mosquito; and his lover, Reverend Asher Elijah Rook, an ex-Confederate chaplain who becomes imbued with magic when he undergoes the punishment meant for another man. The story is told mostly from the point of view of Edward Morrow, a Pinkerton man sent to infiltrate Rook's gang and get a reading on his magical abilities.

Rook is a reluctant hexslinger, one who uses Bible verses to shape and charge his magic only when he sees no other alternative - at least, that's the case at the outset of the novel. He falls into a life of crime pretty much by accident, the same way he falls into a sexual and emotional relationship with Chess, but once started down that road, he has to figure out how to deal with it all. He wrestles mightily with all of this, none of which he asked for; some might say he became a bad man solely because he chose to be a good man on one occasion.

Chess believes he is simply a gunslinger who happens to be a homosexual. The son of a San Francisco whore, he seems himself as something similar, a man who uses sex to get what he wants - except when it comes to Rook.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Wag The Fox on April 4, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Do you love a good western? Sure you do, but do you love evil westerns? Well, I think that's exactly what you're going to get when you read Gemma Files' debut novel, A Book of Tongues, whether you use that adjective in a complimentary manner or not.

The novel is set in a world set a couple of years after the American Civil War, but with one key difference from ours: it's populated by wielders of magic known as hexslingers. In this world, a Pinkerton agent named Morrow is tasked with infiltrating a criminal gang led by a hexslinger known as Reverend Rook. Rook, aided by his right-hand man and lover, Chess, isn't on some mere mission of petty theft and murder. The former preacher is haunted and under the influence of an Aztex goddess bent on reentering the world and bringing a few of her friends back as well.

That right there sounds like a simple enough setup for some good ol' pulpy western fun, but there's more to this story than just that. Heroes are pretty hard to come by in this novel, for one thing. Just about every major character we experience this story through has either some serious emotional baggage or just a mean-spirited streak running through them. There's also a strong "in over my head" vibe from both Morrow and Rook, as Morrow finds undercover work with the gang especially daunting when Chess' violent nature regularly rears up when out in public, and Rook's gradual discovery of what his magical powers are capable of doing and where they could lead offer a bleak future ahead of him.

The story comes off a bit disjointed in parts, not only with the switches between points of view that really affect the pace of the novel, but there are also these little preludes at the beginning of each of the three acts that feel quite disparate from the rest of the book.
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Format: Paperback
Two years after the Civil War, Pinkerton agent Ed Marrow goes undercover with a dangerous outlaw gang lead by Rook, a Reverend turned hexslinger, and Chess, skilled gunslinger and Rook's lover. In a version of the Wild West where magic is a real and present danger, Rook is an even bigger threat: he is haunted by an Aztec goddess with her sights set on bringing gods back into the world. A Book of Tongues is, perhaps, one of the most unique books I've ever read. Hexslingers mingling with gunslingers in the Wild West, Aztec mythology, and shameless homosexual content make for a premise far off the beaten path, which may be unappealing to some readers and--because the premise infiltrates every aspect of the book right down to its narrative voice--require adjustment and adaptation from even more. And even if gay mages in the post-Civil War South seems to you like normal fair, A Book of Tongues is so bloody, bold, and resolute that it comes like a swift punch in the gut: sudden, solid, and breathtaking. Files never shies from the worst, and her book is replete with authentic antiheros and despicable behavior--yet, somehow, she build characters and a plot that demand the reader's care and personal investment, perhaps because the unique narrative voice, precise and gritty language, and colorful characters are so immerse and, therefore, convincing. Whenever the vivid characters or slightly indulgent sex scenes begin to run away with themselves, Files draws it back with a universal willingness--almost a willful glee--to destroy. Nothing in A Book of Tongues is sacred, but many things are true.

For all this, the book is not perfect.
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