by Melissa Marr
Hardcover, 274 pgs.
William Morrow, 2013
This is a very hard book to describe, which is a positive in this case — a portal fantasy involving sympathetic vampires, semi-domesticated dragons, outlaws and magic — in a Wild West-ish setting. On second thought, guess it’s not that tough to describe after all.
That may sound like Marr’s tried to throw too many things into the mix, and technically she made have — but she made it work well enough to get through almost 300 pages. Decades ago, a brother and sister (Kitty and Jack) from the Berkeley Area in the late 1800’s vanish and reappear in a new world, called The Wasteland. Some time later, they’re joined by others — including a Prohibition-era mobster, Edgar and then others from various periods in America. And other than one particular event in their background, there’s virtually nothing these people have in common.
Once they arrive in The Wasteland — each new person has to make a decision, to live with Jack and “The Arrivals” or to become a henchman to a pretty twisted proto-mafioso. Independence or some sort of servitude. The majority opt for the security and safety of the latter.
Oh, did I mention there are demon-summoning monks roaming around?
Jack and his people make ends meet doing odds and ends for the local governor, and other miscellaneous figures. Just trying to eke out a living, have a little left over for fun (read: whiskey).
It could be coincidence, it could be a matter of timing, or maybe it’s just the new presence of someone who showed up from 2013 Earth — but things that have been pretty much the same for decades start to change — and the Wasteland will never be the same.
quickly develop into well-rounded characters. This is probably Marr’s strength (not a knock on anything else she did here), as we see that the heroes aren’t always that heroic, most of the villains aren’t that bad either (most of them).
It’s a fun read, a quick read in an incredible world, with well-build and realized characters. Worth your time.