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A Book of Tongues: Volume One of the Hexslinger Series Paperback – April 15, 2010
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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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
Top customer reviews
This book starts off with a bang. It is not perfect - for one I find it lacked in subtlety a bit. But the concept was just so good. The magic system feels fresh and unique. Reverend Rook using passages from the Holy Bible as the base of his spells might have been my favorite part of the concept (or as I excidetly told my friend, someone's finally utilised HOW METAL the Old Testament is). Occasional weaving in of delightfully nightmarish Mesoamerican mythology was right up my alley. And the characters, of course - interesting, fleshed out, and unashamedly queer which is always a bonus in the lit world that either silences queer characters or makes things about their sexuality.
Like so many readers, I have qualms with the second part (and more specifically last third) of the book. As many pointed out, the pacing loses its rhythm, in fact i am reasonably sure that a single conversation occupied a 10% chunk of the book. While I enjoy Mesoamerican mythology, removing Rev's Bible spells was in my mind a huge mistake. And finally, finally, characters start acting in a way that make no sense, and the book makes a halfhearted attempt to explain it and immediately fails at it - sometimes it wants you to believe that all of the strange actions are Ixchel's influence or the hex, sometimes that none, and not in a good "waiting for plottwist reveal" way. I can frankly say I did not enjoy my slog through several chapters closer to the end there.
However, I enjoyed the rest of the book and I still would recommend it to lovers of horror fantasy, unusual mythology and magic system, and queer fantasy that is not about the big Q
Not so with A Book of Tongues Volume 1 (The Hexslinger Series) by Gemma Files. She not only knows the west, she brings it alive as part of a new and very different (and sometimes very disturbing) world. She not only gets the history right she gets the words people used back then, and their inflections, right. That's pretty rare for someone who wants to bring fantasy and speculative fiction to this genre. Like I said, ofttimes the west is just throwaway background. Files did her homework and I love that.
But the west, while integral, is not all there is to this world Files has created. There's a myriad of cultures intermixed with fantasy and sexual themes and while at times it might seem Files is bringing too much to the plate, at least she keeps it consistent. That, too, is rather unusual. Again, many fantasy writers throw magic against a wall to see what sticks. Files not only makes her magic work, but it has consequences and cultural influences you often don't see in other weird west stories. Or any fantasy stories for that matter.
There's a lot to like about this novel, but there are some problems, too. Because she brings so much to the world, so many varied cultures, it sometimes comes across as forced. We don't get to spend as much time with some characters as we would like, because Files has to keep the story moving.
What I mean is, you can tell she's going that extra mile to make the setting stark and unusual by bringing so much into the mix. Which is unnecessary because almost everything about the story is stark and unusual. She runs the gamut from Mayans to Christianity, gay sex to shootouts, dark magic to Steampunk. She gets it right and it's believable and it all hangs together, but it came across as too much. Not heavy-handed, mind you, not at all. But a little forced.
Another thing, and this is only a stylistic choice, one of the characters in the novel, the Rainbow Lady, has her thoughts presented in bold type. It jumps off the page and I found it distracting. But, seriously, that's only a stylistic choice and not a reason to pass this book by.
The setting is fantastic and all the characters are interesting, some more than others. I really liked Ed Morrow, the Pinkerton agent, and the wonderful twelve-year old Albino mage, Songbird. They both are wonderful and I would like to read more about them.
Since the book sets itself up for an obvious sequel on the last page I suggest you get on board now. There's a lot here to like. Give it a peek.
Highly recommended, but not if you can't handle some violence.
Most recent customer reviews
This novel lacks an interesting premise.Read more
The first third of the book is a jumbled knot.Read more