I always vastly underestimate the amount of reading I need to do for work, but I did bet on the fact that I’d be able to catch up easily on Books 1 and 2 of the Gunnie Rose series ahead of the impending release of Book 3, due solely to the fact that Charlaine Harris is a consistently entertaining writer. And y’know, for someone most famed for her contemporary paranormal and mystery novels, her adoption of the alternate history milieu in An Easy Death comes as a pleasant surprise from an author who always seems to have another intriguing bow in her storytelling quiver or, perhaps more aptly given the setting, bullet in her six-shooter.
The assassination of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and a Great Depression without a road to recovery led to the fracturing of the United States of America into different nation states. Canada swooped in on the northern Midwest states, while the original thirteen colonies (minus Georgia) pledged fealty to England and renamed themselves Brittania. Georgia and the rest of the Deep South became the virulently racist Dixie, and the rest of the American South that escaped Mexican encroachment formed Texoma. Between Texoma and Canada lie the New States of America, while the West Coast has become the Holy Russian Empire, the new seat of the Romanov family that fled their murderous, godless compatriots. The HRE is notable for being home to open magic users, termed disparagingly outside the HRE as grigoris, after the first wizard of them all, the infamous Grigori Rasputin.
Lizbeth Rose is a gunslinger, a.k.a gunnie, in Texoma. She hates grigoris, but since they don’t often come her way, has no reason to act upon her dislike… until two of them show up on her doorstep, wanting to hire her. Needing the money for what seems like a relatively easy job — tracking down a wizard and his family in Juarez, Mexico — she reluctantly accepts. As they travel south and she learns shocking truths about their mission, a combination of her gunnie code and an instinctive need to protect her own secrets prevent her from bailing like she knows she should. But desperate killers are also on their trail, and soon Lizbeth is fighting to save her own life in addition to her charges’.
Wow, this really took me back to my Deadlands days, when I immersed myself in the cool mythology of the Weird West, as written by the Pinnacle Entertainment Group anyway. While I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t much Asian representation, I’m hoping that may change when Lizbeth heads West, as it looks like she might in the sequel. There is really great representation of other racial and sexual minorities otherwise, done so casually as to make it all feel like a seamless part of the world-building. My only quibble with that last was the idea that the 12 colonies knelt to Britain in order to escape Canada: unless Canada is drastically different in this alternate history, it seems weird that Brittania would kneel to what is also Canada’s Head Of State in order to preserve a rather trivial sense of nationalism, IMO (but, hey, ‘Murrica.)
On another note, I’m fairly certain that Lizbeth’s gunslinging talent is partly magical in nature, given the similarly fatiguing toll it took on her as magic did on the grigoris. I’m really looking forward to reading Books 2 and 3 soon and finding out if my theory is correct. Lizbeth is an engaging heroine in an absorbing, imaginative setting, and her adventures make for some badass reading. I do have to warn that she gets into some extremely violent and adult situations — there is a rape early on in the book that’s handled well but was still difficult to read — so this is definitely a series for mature readers.
An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris was published October 2nd 2018 by Saga Press and is available from all good booksellers, including
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