I was pretty excited to start this book. I liked that the author set the story in a Western environment and that the back cover indicated that the main character would be a guy. I've been trying to read more books with guys as the main character. They're not quite as easy to find in my genres of choice as I would have first assumed. But this book surprised me. To me, Cedar Hunt was not the main character. In reality, there were multiple main characters. Cedar Hunt was not given any more page time than them, and I was disappointed that I was never able to sink into his character and get to know him well.
In my opinion (based on time spent in POV sections) there were at least three main characters. Cedar Hunt, a cursed man who's determined to hunt for a missing boy, Mae Lindson, a grieving widow out for revenge, and Shard LeFel, the man at the center of all the unrest in the area. In addition to cycling through those main POVs, we also spent time in the heads of multiple other characters. Because of this, I never became substantially invested in any of the characters. I felt a distinct lack of depth, despite finding the plot intriguing.
I found the storyline fascinating, although after finishing the book I find myself with a lot of unanswered questions. Being that this is a series, it's possible that the author wants to dole those answers out slowly, so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. The mix of magic and Steampunk worked very well together. Curses, magic, werewolves, zombies, and the Strange...they were all fascinating. And occasionally really creepy! Mr. Shunt and his freaky ability to stitch himself back together gave me the shivers.
I thought Mae's storyline about her murdered husband was very tragic. Seeing Jeb's POV gave their bond a particular poignancy. I think that's why I resented the author's subtle attempts to set the foundation for a future relationship between her and Cedar. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't in your face and there's no actual romance in this book, but the author would throw in a little bit of lingering eye contact and subtle attraction that irritated me. Her husband died two days ago and they had such a soul deep bond that he was forced to be killed multiple times because the bond was so strong it pulled him from death. Trying to forge the seeds of a connection with another man while her husband is barely cold seemed a smack in the face to the bond that they shared.
My favorite characters were Rose Small and the Madder brothers. The Madder brothers were so fierce and wild and a little creepy. Their ability to pop up at just the right time and their habit of bargaining for favors made me intensely curious about what they are. The hints we were given about their connection to LeFel's home just intensified that. And the way they shake hands--what's up with that? Rose was impossible not to like. She was stuck in a life where she was unappreciated and thought a little mad. Watching her open herself to other people like herself was one of my favorite parts of the book.
Although the storyline takes place over a very short amount of time it never felt rushed. It actually felt a little bit slow at times. I'm interested in seeing where the author takes the characters in the second book. My only hope is that she gives her characters a little more depth. While I liked the book it felt more like I was watching a movie play out rather than immersing myself in a book.
"Now, isn't that a pretty thought? Forks of silver, spoons of moonlight. What do you suppose your knives should be made of, Mr. Hunt? Tears?"
Cedar cocked the hammer back on the Walker and aimed it at Alun's head. "Don't know about my knives, but my gun's made of pain."
Review originally posted on Fiction Vixen.