Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review: Peacemaker by K.A. Stewart

PeacemakerPeacemaker by K.A. Stewart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an eArc copy of this from NetGalley.

3 stars, almost 3.5.

Here is a nicely structured novel of the Weird West. It made for a quick, enjoyable read if you like a bit of magic added to your Westerns. Lawman (Peacemaker) Caleb Marcus and his trusty familiar Ernst travel out west on their new assignment and realize that something isn’t right in the small town of Hope, somewhere in Kansas.

That said, I couldn’t rate it higher than that. While there was a huge amount of potential here, most of that wasn’t quite realized. I’ll start on the positives though:

The magic system is very impressive. Stewart explains the basics of Arcane powers as used by Caleb and the characters that aren’t either Barren (born without ability) or Scoured (the power burnt out of them). There is mystery with it, but we get to see how Caleb uses it and how an old war wounding has left him partially hampered. The magic employed by the Cheyenne is similar, but different. Caleb himself is even mystified by how it works, and I felt that was a great twist to the Arcane system and the lack of understanding between the cultures.

Caleb’s backstory and the alt-history that includes the Arcane are very interesting. Not only does this form the backbone of the story background, but it sets up nicely for a longer series set in this Weird West. I’m looking forward to what Stewart can do with this material in future installments.

Now for the negatives:

The idea of “Agent” Caleb Marcus was intriguing. He seemed like Harry Dresden with a badge (and an actual hat!) at first glance. The problem is, he didn’t have much personality. He was polite. That’s the one characteristic we can gather as he shows very little else. He had no wit, and despite having such a grim backstory, he wasn’t really very dark. He was a “good man” but didn’t seem driven to do anything for any reason except that it was the right thing to do. Flat out, he was boring.

His side-kick familiar was a little more interesting. Ernst seemed at first like Bugs Bunny with antlers, as he’s described as taking the shape of a jackalope. While Ernst does have some wit and the dynamic between him and Caleb is something to build a story around, I feel like potential was lost. There was a little banter between them, but not a lot. This is an area that could have really lifted the overall feeling of enjoyment with this book, and it just didn’t.

Also, while well-constructed and written, the story didn’t overly impress. Most of it was fairly standard Western flair: lawman stranger, corrupt rancher, down-trodden and victimized Indians, scared townspeople, strong willed schoolteacher, orphan boy with the heart of gold but rough manners, etc.( I did really like the Scottish bartender though.) The storyline was predictable for the most part, though executed without any problem. But except for the Arcane elements, there just weren’t a lot of surprises.

So overall, I’d say it was an enjoyable novel. But I just felt it could have been excellent. There is awesome potential for the series still, and I’m hoping that as she finds her groove with it, Stewart will realize this potential in future installments. Definitely one to watch.

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