A review written by John:
John’s quick take: A clever and entertaining mash-up of cowboy Western, mysticism, mythology, urban fantasy, and horror – all set on the edge of the Nevada desert in the late 1860s, in the weirdest little town you can hope to imagine.
John’s description: After the disappearance of his beloved dad, who is a deeply scarred Civil War veteran, young Jim Negrey’s life turns upside down. With secrets to hide and on the run, he heads out west and eventually finds himself crossing the deadly 40-Mile Desert in Nevada. Out of water and with his horse on the point of dying, Jim is in a desperate situation, but he’s discovered and rescued by a strange outcast Native American Indian, who seems to have an odd affinity with the wild coyotes. The Indian, whose only name is Mutt, is deputy at the nearby wild town of Golgotha, and that is where he takes Jim.
Golgotha turns out to be weird beyond belief – with a host of oddball characters and a history of strange happenings. One of these characters is the town sheriff, Jon Highfather, who has “the mark of the noose” around his neck and is believed by many to be a dead man whose time has not yet come. Being a new friend of Mutt, who is deeply trusted by the sheriff, Jim is taken under the wing of Highfather.
Almost immediately that Jim arrives in town, all manner of madness and mayhem breaks out - much of which seems to stem from the old silver mine on the mountainside overlooking the town. With the help of a strange preacher, a primordial evil is stirring deep in the bowels of the earth beneath the silver mine. With the very fate of Heaven and Earth hanging in the balance, a motley crew of local people seem to be the only ones who can save the world.
Mutt and Highfather may, or may not, be able to rely on the help of the Mormon mayor with his trove of mythical treasures, the leader of the local Chinese tong and a powerful but shady saloon owner whose family has owned the silver mine and surrounding land for many generations. But central to it all is Jim and a strange artifact that used to belong to his father.
John’s thoughts: Although fantasy and mysticism are not my usual shtick, it’s good to try something different now and then and this seemed like an unusual and interesting story. So I’m glad I gave it a go because The Six-Gun Tarot is a real melting pot of content and themes creating an entertaining read.
At its heart it’s a fantasy thriller set in the wild West, but it includes shades of mysticism, Chinese and Mormon mythology, Native Indian lore, theology, zombie-ism and Frankenstein! Oh, and it’s a coming of age tale. And did I mention the secret order of assassins? Sound intriguing? It definitely was.
What I like most about the story was the characters that Belcher created. The lead characters are complex, well developed and just flat-out interesting. This starts with Jim, Mutt and Highfather, but many of the supporting cast are also three-dimensional with lots of quirks to them. And come to think of it, some of the characters may have more than three dimensions.
If there was anything I wasn’t crazy about it was some of the religious mythology and underpinning of the tale, but this wasn’t too over the top and didn’t get in the way too much for me – and it did mean that we could have fallen angels added to the mix. One other minor niggle was one key thread to the story’s conclusion which wasn’t explained well (of if it was I missed it).
All in all this was a complex and fun mash-up creating a fast-paced, entertaining story. Although Fantasy really isn’t a big draw for me, I enjoyed this book and I’d rate it four star. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in urban fantasy, steampunk or “weirdo-Westerns”.
The Six-Gun Tarot ~ by R. S. Belcher; Tor Books; January 2013; Hardcover; 368 pages.