Two years after the Civil War, Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow has gone undercover with one of the weird West's most dangerous outlaw gangs - the troop led by "Reverend" Asher Rook, ex-Confederate chaplain turned "hexslinger," and his notorious lieutenant (and lover) Chess Pargeter. Morrow's task: get close enough to map the extent of Rook's power, then bring that knowledge back to help Professor Joachim Asbury unlock the secrets of magic itself.
Magicians, cursed by their gift to a solitary and painful existence, have never been more than a footnote in history. But Rook, driven by desperation, has a plan to shatter the natural law that prevents hexes from cooperation, and change the face of the world - a plan sealed by an unholy marriage-oath with the goddess Ixchel, mother of all hanged men. To accomplish this, he must raise her bloodthirsty pantheon from its collective grave through sacrifice, destruction, and apotheosis.
Caught between a passel of dead gods and monsters, hexes galore, Rook's witchery, and the ruthless calculations of his own masters, Morrow's only real hope of survival lies with the man without whom Rook cannot succeed: Chess Pargeter himself. But Morrow and Chess will have to literally ride through Hell before the truth of Chess's fate comes clear - the doom written for him, and the entire world.
©2010 ChiZine Publications (P)2012 Iambik Audio Inc.
"(A) boundary-busting horror-fantasy debut.... fully delivers both sizzling passions and dark chills." (Publishers Weekly)
"Files' poetic prose is pitch-perfect: languid, precise and full of dark imagery..." (Justine Warwick, Rue Morgue #102)
"Gangs of New York rubs against the cross-genre cheek of True Blood, mashed with a healthy dollop pf J.R.R. Tolkien by way of a dusty, mud- and semen-caked Deadwood... truly one-of-a-kind, violent, carnal and creepy." (Fangoria)
I'm not surprised that the review above speculates that this novel stated out as fanfiction, as the plot contains all the erotic wish fulfillment typical of that realm. What lifts it is the quality of the writing- Gemma Files has an excellent command of the genre dialect and combines it with really tight poetic prose. The dialogue zings in the manner of a good Deadwood episode- which works well in the context of an audiobook.I really had to give full marks to Gordon Mackenzie for not only navigating some luridly vocal sex scenes but also singing western tunes and voicing a main character whose larynx was crushed in a botched hanging.The central triangle between small, violent, whoreson Chess Pargeter, fallen preacher Reverend Rook and ex-Pinkerton detective Ed Morrow really is the best part of the story. It's an erotic gay romance on an operatic scale, set within a hotchpotch Aztec-Native American--Buddhist-Christian (yeah, I know) mythological backdrop. I came to the audiobooks after enjoying reading the novels- and I can see how getting your head round the scale of the mythology might be daunting. However it makes sense in terms of strong fantasy world building- Wild West magic comes from all the competing cultures and civilizations that are thrown up against each other in this raw new country- Mexicans, Indians, hell-and-damnation Preachers and Chinese railway workers. It's hugely enjoyable to see how the author pulls all these elements together- and based on quite a lot of research, so you learn a bit! Without giving away too much, the trilogy follows a betrayal-revenge-restitution arc, so it's pretty satisfying, this first book covering the initial betrayal. As the author put it in a dedication, this is one for 'everyone else who has found themselves developing a sneaking taste for blood-soaked gay porno magic horse opera' but it does end up being greater than the sum of it's parts.
Erm...depends on their tastes
A lot of the characters hide their emotions under a cool, gunslinger demeanor. Gordon MacKenzie made it easier to understand the subtext without losing the insouciance.
Yes....the love story is convincing, and I felt for them. Also, it has to be said...this is way more erotic than 50 Shades.
I disliked this book so much I returned it to Audible, the first time I have done that in over a year's membership of happy listening. I read reviews for Gemma Files' first Hexslinger book and it sounded right up my alley, violent Deadwood style Western, with dark, fantasy elements and the promise of sexy gay romance. Well, I was confused, disappointed and frustrated. Half the time I didn't have a clue what was going on, nor did I care much to be honest. I skimmed through chunks...all the 'supernatural shenanigans' (main character Rook's words not mine). The triangle relationship between the male leads did get my attention but that's only a small part of the story. The characters are underdeveloped, and there is just too much mumbo jumbo magic and exposition. The final annoyance is its lack of a proper ending, what you get instead is set-up for the sequel (which I have no interest in reading). I have read much better developed and more satisfying fan fiction published free on the internet, and in fact would not be at all surprised to learn this series has its origins there. At least the narration is well done.
"Good book but way too explicit."
Yes. The authors work is often over flowery and ponderous but the narraotr is excellent and makes it work.
I liked the reverend. It was interesting to witness his fall from grace.
He has great range and adds emotional quality to the book.
All the characters are distinct and memorable. No one in the series is nothing less than well developed.
The big problem with the series is the sexual content. This has some of the most graphic male homosexual scenes you could find in a non-porn book. I am not talking about one scene, it is throughout this book and all the rest. The story and setting was good enough I slogged through it, but it is very likely to disturb a lot of readers. DO NOT LET ANYONE UNDER 18 LISTEN TO THIS BOOK! You have been warned. the author has a good story. Why she feels the need to devlove into porn at regular intervals makes no sense. Still it is worth a read if you can get past that.
"An interesting departure from Westerns"
Many different periods have been re-imagined with magic (medieval of course, or Victorian England with Steampunk), but this was my first Western/Magic hybrid. Odd but well crafted, and internally consistent. Kudos to the author for bringing forth this original setting.
The world depicted is violent and crass, but believable given the premise, and populated by interesting characters. The narration is very well done, with diverse accents and tones that fit the characters and make them easily distinguishable.
The prologue sounds a bit like Mayan Mythology 101 on acid, but don't let it discourage you; it is not at all representative of the rest of the writing style of the novel - which is much more straightforward.
The emotional relationship between several of the male leads is important to the story and key to understanding their motivations and actions, but this is far from a romance novel.
Overall a recommended read (or listen!).
I read the reviews before purchasing this. I thought the idea of a magician in cowboy times was unique and interesting. I saw that there was some "objectionable material", but as a liberal pro-gay rights guy, I figured it was homophobes who couldn't get past a few squeamish (for them) parts. I was very wrong. The love scenes in this book are explicit, and seemingly pointless. We get that the lead character is gay, but even if he were heterosexual, I wouldnt need explicit blow-by-blow accounts of their positions and orgasms to understand their sexuality. The sex in this book becomes a distraction from the story, and whole Gordon Mackenzie's enthusiastic narration is a credit to him as a voice actor, it made it even more uncomfortable. If you're looking for a great story with fantasy and western themes, I'm not qualified to judge, because I couldnt get through it. However, if you're looking for steamy sex (in this case homosexual sex), download away. Ms Files, stick to story elements and move away from shocking sex for shock's sake.
Sex distracts from what, on the surface seems to be a good idea.
The idea is unique.
If you are the type of person with 'sensibilities' on the topic of homosexuality, run far away! This book is filled with multiple instances of graphically detailed descriptions of man on man action that occur across multiple chapters. Not that that's all the book was about, but at times it did seem that way. The narrator was good, providing distinct voices for each character. The story jumped around a bit, going from the main story to a flashback, then a flashback in a flashback then returning to ride the first flashback for a while until finally returning to the stories present leaving you to do the mental gymnastics to follow the timeline.
That said, the characters and the story developed well and was an interesting listen, if a bit (to put it mildly) to much information on the whole gay sex thing the characters had going.
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