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Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: Six-Gun Tarot

  • Author: R.S. Belcher 
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (January 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765329328
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765329325

Six-Gun Tarot is a unique and  astonishing story that combines elements of fantasy, Western-Adventure, and steampunk in the tradition of "American Gods" and "Good Omens".  Eastern philosophy and Western religious mythology are powerful elements of the narrative with nods to "Frankenstein", "The Call of Cthulhu", and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"  thrown in the mix for good measure.

The first half of the book introduces the many characters including a Sheriff who seemingly cannot be killed, a deputy who is part coyote, a trained assassin masquerading as a housewife, a Mayor entrusted with keeping God's treasures safe, a lonely angel charged with watching over an ancient enemy, and a young boy running from his past as he clings to a prize more valuable than even he realizes. 

Each character has their own  part to play in the story and hence there really is no central character except for the town itself. Golgotha, named for the biblical place where Jesus was crucified, is a haven in the desert for the blessed and the cursed; a place of secrets where everybody knows everything and nobody knows nothing; where evil crouches in the darkest corners and flawed heroes come in unexpected shapes and forms. 

Whereas the first-half of Six-Gun Tarot sets the stage for the story, the second half  allows the plot to unfold as the various elements are woven together. Some readers may be put off by the slow pace through the first half of the book as the various characters are introduced and story elements are laid into place. At first, the many concepts introduced may seem contradictory, however, the author did an excellent job of combining them into a cohesive story. I especially liked how the author chose to explain how the many Gods and Spirits can exist in the same universe without endorsing one belief system over another or without invalidating one another. I especially liked the inclusion of at least one positive gay-character who was neither a stereotype nor a victim.

With a title like Six Gun Tarot, you would think that the story would involve tarot cards in some way and although they do appear briefly in one scene they do not play even a minor-role in the over-all story. The title of each chapter, however, is named after a tarot card and hints as to the personality of a character or some action involving the plot. With Six Gun Tarot, the author has laid the ground work for a rich and imaginative mythology that hints at past adventures as well as future ones. With the success of this book, it has been reported that a sequel is already in progress. 


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