Published by Solaris
22 July 2014
ISBN (Mobi): 9781849977654 – £5.99
ISBN (Epub): 9781849977654 – £5.99
ISBN (Print): 9781781082389 – £7.99
This is the first book in the series ‘Children of the Drought’.
A Western by any other name, as the cover suggests. However it isn’t exactly any type of Western that might have been written by J T Edson or Louis Lamour.
If you’ve ever read a Western, I read a few in my teens, you’ll find this book familiar territory. The travel across country sounds similar and the boarder town could be anywhere in the West of USA. It could be but it isn’t
In fact I’ll use a paraphrase of that hackneyed expression – this certainly isn’t Kansas.
This story is not just a Western – I’m not sure if the publishers would prefer ‘Horror’ or ‘Fantasy’ but given they also publish the British anthology comic 2000AD I can’t see either label worrying them.
In the words of Solaris:
“The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day, but Elim’s heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient animal gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight. And about the only thing worse than finding whatever’s left of Sil is the thought of getting caught out after dark – of discovering how much savage magic is living in Elim’s own flesh, and how far he’ll go to survive the night.”
There is magic in the world as well as the rumour of shapeshifters. Sil is a horse trader with the gift of the gab and Elim is a skilled handler. They have a string of horses to sell and Sil suggests crossing the border from familiar territory in to the land of the Sundowners.
Sil is a pure born Northman with pale skin, blue eyes and blond hair. Elim is of mixed race, or in the parlance of the book a Mule, half Whiteman and half Sundowner. While someone of mixed race in this world might pass for one or the other in the world of this book the Mule has patchy skin, dark skin of a Sundowner and light skin of the encroaching settlers.
Sixes is a boarder town over run by Sundowners, though now peaceful with Whitemen at least tolerated. Or at least this is the understanding of Sil.
Even if the blurb didn’t suggest there might be shapeshifters in this story it is clear from Elim’s misgivings that this may be the case.
Sil and Elim are both very interesting characters and the dynamics of their relationship is seen from both sides with the truth, as usual, falling somewhere in the middle.
Similarly the other characters are well constructed and one doesn’t always quite know exactly who is doing what for which reason. The otherworldness is very gently introduced, some readers might think it a little too slow but in my opinion it was timed well.
I didn’t know this was part of a series when I started reading but was glad to discover that I would learn more than these pages would teach me,