Category Archives: Gemma Files

Wish List Wednesday #98: Gemma Files’ "A Rope of Thorns"

I’m not sure how popular the weird western genre is, but I have a feeling it’s one that I could really get into. Back in March, I won an e-book copy of Gemma Files‘ debut novel, A Book of Tongues, courtesy of The Ranting Dragon and Chizine Publications. So, I figured I had better put the sequel, A Rope of Thorns, on my wish list.
The Hexslinger series tells the story of Ed Morrow, a former Pinkerton agent turned gun-for-hire. Set in a western landscape, he is tasked with learning all he can about a magician–or hexslinger in this world–named Asher Rook who is hellbent on breaking the curse preventing hexslingers from consolidating their powers and unleashing an Aztec god’s unholy army in the process.
The story goes a whole lot deeper than that, and this second book promises to bring even more goodness than the first.
Have you heard tell of this series? Sound like something you’d be interested in, too?

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Filed under A Rope of Thorns, fantasy, Gemma Files, Hexslinger, western, Wish List Wednesday

Rabid Reads: "A Book of Tongues (Hexslinger #1)" by Gemma Files

A Book of Tongues (Hexslinger #1)
by Gemma Files
Chizine Publications (2010)
Do you love a good western? Sure you do, but do you love evil westerns? Well, I think that’s exactly what you’re going to get when you read Gemma Files’ debut novel, A Book of Tongues, whether you use that adjective in a complimentary manner or not.
The novel is set in a world set a couple of years after the American Civil War, but with one key difference from ours: it’s populated by wielders of magic known as hexslingers. In this world, a Pinkerton agent named Morrow is tasked with infiltrating a criminal gang led by a hexslinger known as Reverend Rook. Rook, aided by his right-hand man and lover, Chess, isn’t on some mere mission of petty theft and murder. The former preacher is haunted and under the influence of an Aztex goddess bent on reentering the world and bringing a few of her friends back as well.
That right there sounds like a simple enough setup for some good ol’ pulpy western fun, but there’s more to this story than just that. Heroes are pretty hard to come by in this novel, for one thing. Just about every major character we experience this story through has either some serious emotional baggage or just a mean-spirited streak running through them. There’s also a strong “in over my head” vibe from both Morrow and Rook, as Morrow finds undercover work with the gang especially daunting when Chess’ violent nature regularly rears up when out in public, and Rook’s gradual discovery of what his magical powers are capable of doing and where they could lead offer a bleak future ahead of him.
The story comes off a bit disjointed in parts, not only with the switches between points of view that really affect the pace of the novel, but there are also these little preludes at the beginning of each of the three acts that feel quite disparate from the rest of the book. It’s an engrossing read though, unhindered by the fade-to-black moments. Some of the language, particularly relating to the mythology was a stumbling block for me–but I’m a dullard with that sort of thing anyway. A real anglophone, I am. But on the other side of that coin is Files’ way to weaving the dialogue and the narrative into a rich tapestry of this magical wild west. It feels utterly authentic, and by the time I reached the end of the book I was ready for more, which is just as well because the book clearly points the reader towards the next book, A Rope of Thorns.
I’ve read other reviews that express a certain discomfort, or simply surprise, as it relates to the unfiltered homosexuality that exists between Rook and Chess. I didn’t really have any qualms with that at all. Frankly, I thought it was a nice change of pace from the cut-and-dry westerns I’m so used to watching or reading that make zero reference to gay characters, particularly genuine gay characters. In fact, the relationships between the magical elements of hexslingers and the sexuality demonstrated between them was a fascinating aspect of the novel.
For a debut novel, it’s an ambitious yarn Gemma Files has spun, and is yet another example of Chizine’s eye for stories off the beaten path. I’m looking forward to reading A Rope of Thorns, but all the previously published short story collections of Gemma Files, because this author is one to watch in the years ahead.


Filed under A Book of Tongues, book review, Chizine Publications, Gemma Files, Hexslinger, horror, Rabid Reads, western

Chasing Tale in March: Douglas Adams, Gemma Files, Peter Straub …

Spring cleaning is drawing near. Oh, how I dread having to go through that exercise again. The fair weather has returned, for the most part, and I wound up hitting the used-bookstores with a few exchanges. But, having done that, I’ve basically accomplished nothing by way of lessening the number of books on my shelf. So much for progress? Have you been spring cleaning your bookshelves, too? Forced yourself to finally part with that book you swore you would re-read, but never got around to actually doing it?
Anyway, here are the books I’ve added to my shelves:
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams – For some unearthly reason, one of the reviews that continually brings in blog visitors is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I wrote that review almost two years ago, but to this day it still lures visitors. So, I thought I should get around to reading the sequel. I said I would, but I haven’t made an effort at all. I saw this ratty paperback for like a buck and thought, fuck it.

Cthulhurotica (anthology) edited by Carrie Cunn – Lovecraftian horror blended with erotic romance. Hunh. I’m game. I’ve read vampire erotica, werewolf, erotica, and even zombie erotica. So why not Cthulhu erotica? I won this via a book giveaway hosted by Cate Gardner–thanks, Cate!–and given the kind words she afforded it, I think there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy it too.

A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files (e-book) – At the start of the month I made a pledge to participate in The Ranting Dragon’s 2011 Locus Reading Challenge. It spurred me on to read Ted Chiang’s Lifecycle of Software Objects and Lavie Tidhar’s The Bookman. As part of it, there were a slew of giveaways. I entered one for Gemma Files’ debut novel because it struck me as a great premise–and it’s published by Chizine. Score.

Strange Men in Pin-Striped Suits (collection) by Cate Gardner – Along with the Cthulhu anthology, Cate was kind enough to send along her own short story collection. I’m really looking forward to checking this one out, as I’ve been reading her short stories in various places online over the last year or two, since discovering her blog, and am convinced that she is going places. Incidentally, you can snag this at the Kindle Store for a cheap price right now. Think about it.

Borderlands 3 by Thomas Monteleone (editor) – I have another of the Borderlands anthologies sitting on my shelf, but when I saw this one I couldn’t resist. This is a prime example of how my to-be-read pile is out of control. I can’t even read one anthology in a series without snagging another. Well, I will read one of these before the end of the year. Promise.

Piercing by Ryu Murakami – I can’t even remember why I have Murakami on my wish list. I think he penned a novel that was adapted to a very cool Japanese horror film. Audition, maybe? Anyway, I just spied this novel on a shelf and the name caught my eye. So I got in on the cheap and added it to the pile. It’s a short novel, so it ought to be a quick read.

The Masks of Our Fathers by Barry Napier (Kindle) Barry delved into the self-publishing recently with this new novel, so I decided to snag it. Two reasons. One, I like Barry’s short fiction. Two, it was only 99 cents. Those are two pretty good reasons. Maybe I can chalk it up as a three-peat by counting it as part of the “Support The Little Guy” campaign, too.

The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff – A mass market paperback of a Sokoloff novel found its way to my neck of the woods. Weird. I’ve had a few of her books on my wish list, but have never seen one on store shelves in Nova Scotia. This is her debut novel, which was published in 2006, so maybe that gives me a timeline of how long to wait for another of her books to appear around here.

A Dark Matter by Peter Straub – I put this book on my wish list last year, but it wasn’t until I saw the recently released paperback in an independent bookstore that I figured I ought to get it. I haven’t bought a book from an independent bookstore since Christmas, and the guilt was getting to me–not really, but … still. Support your indie bookstores, people!

Best New Fantasy (2005) edited by Sean Wallace – I found this amidst a random pile of books. Wasn’t too sure about getting it at first, but as soon as I saw the table of contents with authors like Catherynne M. Valente, Kelly Link, Joe Hill, among others, I didn’t hesitate in scooping up this anthology from Prime Books.

Those are the books sitting on my bookshelf now. What books did you add to your collection and/or pile?


Filed under Alexandra Sokoloff, Barry Napier, book shopping, Chasing Tale, Douglas Adams, Gemma Files, Peter Straub, Ryu Murakami, Thomas Monteleone