Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4.5 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb: This isn’t the same old Wild West. The usual suspects are all present: cowboys, outlaws, and sheriffs. There’s plenty of dust, tumbleweeds, horses, and cattle on the range, but there are also magical gems, automatons, elementals, airships… even dinosaurs and genetically modified insects. Roaming among the buffalo and coyotes, you’ll encounter skinwalkers, mad engineers, mythical beings cloaked in darkness, and lovers who stay true to their oaths… even beyond the grave. On this frontier are those at the mercy of their own elaborate devices as well as men whose control of time and space provides a present-day vision of the West. There might even be a dragon hidden amongst the ghost towns and wagon trains.
If you like your Westerns with a splash of magic, a touch of steampunk, and plenty of passionate romance between men, these genre-bending tales will exceed expectations.
Hold on to your hats, cowboys and cowgirls. The West is about to get weird, and you’re in for a hell of a ride.
Group review by Faye, Dianne, and Whit
Review: From Ancient Grudge to New Mutiny by Langley Hyde This world took a little time for me to settle into but once I got it was pretty brilliant. The idea of infusing magic into items through stones was totally unique to me. I also loved the Romeo and Juliet vibe going on in this story. James is summoned back from college after he graduates. He’d hoped to stay in the city where men with his preferences had more freedoms the part of the country they’re from allows slave collars made of magical stone and his parents have him collared. He has one last night before heading to his parents home and he plans to spend it with some male company. He chooses a guy who reminds him of his family’s mortal enemy and school boy crush, Frank. After a night together he heads home to learn their precious illudine has been stolen and the man he hooked up with the night before is actually the boy he grew up with. Frank’s family’s illudine was also stolen. They of course blame each other.
I really liked this story. There was a lot of character struggle for a short. I could practically feel he adoration Frank has always had for James. Which of course James wanted but thought would never happen. It did feel like a short which isn’t my favorite thing. The ending is wrapped up pretty quickly. Worth the read for the characters and world building. The guys get their HEA and I’d love to read more about it!
Gunner the Deadly by CS Poe This is probably my favorite of the shorts in this anthology I’ve read so far. It’s a mash up of when western meets mad men and magic. I was hooked from the first page. Gillian is a special agent with powers sent to Arizona to apprehend a mechanical creator of devices who is wanted for murder. He has no idea what he’s gotten himself into. During a gunfight Gillian inadvertently pairs up with he notorious outlaw Gunner the Deadly. Gunner wants the crazy creator dead. Gillian wants him stopped. Teaming up sounds like a good plan.
I loved some of the witty dialogue in this book while the guys were fighting and flirting. The MCs are on opposite sides of the law but can’t fight their attraction for each other. Gillian learns Gunner isn’t quite what he thought so the law man falls for one of the most wanted men in this world. Gillian’s powers were cool. The story has great world building. I would love to read more adventures from Gunner and Gillian. Or anything set in this fantastic world created really. This short was excellent and absolutely worth a read.
Get Lucky by Ginn Hale I loved the world created in this story. It’s lush and vivid which always impresses me in short stories. I also liked how there was so much history between the characters packed into Get Lucky that it felt like a full length book. Which I would of course love to read.
The story starts off right away with a feeling of despair and reluctance to accept the life Lucky currently has. Then he’s thrust into danger as a trio of brothers chase to kill a man in the swamp Lucky knows so well. Something about the man triggers a memory of a lover that left him brokenhearted years before. Lucky’s magical gift is somewhat of a secret so helping the guy means possible exposure but he does it anyway. Turns out the stranger is in fact the man who left him. Stirring up all those feelings once again.
I really liked this story. The love story felt very well developed with the back story and emotions expressed. I adored both characters. I wanted them to find their HEA. The world and the magic caught my attention from the first page. This is an excellent short.
Reaper’s Ride by Astrid Amara Riding for the Pony Express is dangerous. Johnny Jenkins finds himself taking the place of a wounded man on his usual route. Waiting in a cabin for the next rider is lonely. Johnny also finds out Pony Express riders aren’t the only ones out there. Sye rides a black horse and shows up late. Sye is beautiful. Johnny knows he shouldn’t notice, so he does the best he can to provide basic hospitality without rousing any possible suspicion Johnny may be interested in more than is seemly. It doesn’t take long for Johnny to find out what Sye is delivering. It also doesn’t take long for Sye and Johnny to realize they want the same things. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and luck for them to get what they want.
This story is beautifully evocative and it’s easy to romanticize the past, but it was a pretty horrible time for a lot of people. Got a nasty wound? You may survive it. Hopefully you also survive the infection you’re likely going to get afterwards. You got something in your personal life the greater society doesn’t like? Hide it or die. Some things are timeless, though, and they’re shown well in this story. If something seems too good to be true, it is. Know exactly what you’re agreeing to before you agree. No matter what or when, if you find someone you can trust willing to help when you’ve got nowhere else to turn you can count yourself lucky.
Oh, Give Me a Home by Nicole Kimberling Terraforming is going to help a lot of people who have been stuck their entire lives on space stations. Gordon and his husband Henry have a good life on New Saturn. They’re not creating homes so much as their creating a place for people to create their own homes. Unsurprisingly, not everyone wants the teeming mass of humanity on space stations to be able to create their own homes on the wide open planet of New Saturn. Gordon notices some of their land has been disturbed. He resigns himself to deal with it the next day but finds himself awakened by alarms and a missing husband in the middle of the night. Gordon has to ride to the rescue.
This story got me really excited. So many things could mean something else. It was metaphor heaven. Gordon finds himself handicapped by the weight of his world. As much as that sounds wonderfully metaphorical, I’m being literal. Gordon was raised in space. His body isn’t accustomed to gravity. He needs devices to assist him in gravity. The beauty of New Saturn is everyone needs some kind of device to live. It’s prohibitively cold and doesn’t have a breathable atmosphere. Everyone is handicapped by something. Gordon is not only battling the bad guys but also nature. Man vs. nature is all fine and dandy when man is winning, it gets pretty intense when Gordon and Henry’s battery levels get low and Gordon is reminded how easily someone can be crushed under the weight of his environment.
The Tale of August Hayling by Kim Fielding August is in a rut. But, things could be worse. He has his camp in the wide open gold mining hills of California. He makes enough to stay comfortable, keep his belly full, and imbibe in some whisky on a regular basis. He may also imbibe in pleasures of the flesh occasionally. The over-abundance of men in the area doesn’t bother him, in fact, he prefers them to the ladies. August’s staid life gets a big shake when the enigmatic, mysterious Georgios (call me George) sidles up to him at the bar one day, plunks down a huge gold nugget, and enlists August to accompany him on a quest.
Kim colors this story with wonderful humor. I love how accepting August was with all the bizzare turn of events and revelations that happen after he and George headed into the mountains. He’s really a colorful, extraordinary man stuck in an ordinary existence. As the two men traveled, they bickered and sparred in a most robust battle of words. Great fun. What August thinks is a quest for gold turns out to be a quest of a much different sort. Enough hints were given from which I gleaned what George was about fundamentally, but I was eagerly turning pages to find out just exactly who or what these men were going to find when they reached the cave on George’s map. And was I ever surprised and delighted. As was August! As will you be. There is quite an unexpected twist – or two- to this one! Kim Fielding never fails to astound and delight me. This story is another in a long line of satisfying reads from this gifted author.
After the Wind by Tali Spencer The Llano Estacado region of West Texas is in the throes of a dry spell. Micah Dawes knows of a way to make it rain, or more preferably, to find a new water source for his land. Trouble is, the way is fraught with hazards, not the least of which is a man finding himself murdered. And he most definitely does not want that fate for himself, or for Rain – the intriguing, captive man Micah finds himself driven to save.
This story made a strong impression on me. It features two groups of people who, due to their differences, their uniqueness, and their power – are hunted, feared, and treated as chattel by those in power. The two groups work together to find common ground (literally!) and solutions which benefit them all. They also discover they are really not as different from each other as it would appear. I love that the power here involves the elements. The individuals who have the power are able to harness earth, wind, fire, or water. These are the pure, base ingredients of our world and something the Comanche – who comprise one of the maligned groups – especially revere. That fact was evident in this story. Micah and Rain build a palpable connection of trust and love as they face their hardships and their enemies. Tali Spencer wove a fabulous, intriguing and fantastical story of bravery, hope and kinship. I’ve not read her work previously, but I’ll be looking for more now.