Splatter western is a thing and you should know about it.
The protagonist of this book, Black Magpie, kinda reminds me of The Killer of Saints, from Preacher. He’s entirely unlikable and that’s the whole fucking point. He’s grim, cruel, and far too willing to kill innocent people. If anything, Black Magpie is far less indestructible than Killer of Saints. Basically, from the setup, if you try to shoot him, you will miss due to a spell warding him from bullets. This leads to collateral damage as often people trying to shoot him will shoot others around him by accident. It’s a nifty ability that doesn’t make Magpie overly invincible but convinces a lot of people that he is. Basically, drop the gun and try your luck with a bowie, if you got brass balls the size of cantaloupes. That, or get your hands on the one gun that’s specially warded to shoot him (this will come up later).
It’s a good balance of power because most of the antagonists he gets the best of, he does through pure intimidation. At one point, even running out of bullets and being more than vulnerable to a bayonet or hand-to-hand combat. In fact, if it wasn’t for pure intimidation from the fact that he can’t be shot, likely he would have been tits up by now in a shallow dirt nap. Almost ends up that way more than once, in fact. Because he has a fair vulnerability, it’s exploited multiple times during the book to add a level of tension.
My one complaint is that there’s no attempt to empathize with Magpie, whatsoever. That’s just not the purpose of his character. This is a brutal mission of revenge, emphasis on the brutality, with nothing but blood and action to keep you reading. Don’t get me wrong, that’s more than enough for me, but if you’re not in it for the pure violence, this is not the book for you. I just felt that there was some room to play at the history of Magpie, maybe, if only for a moment, sorta feel sorry for how he ended up where he is. But don’t expect it, because you’re not getting that story.
Importantly, this book gets my ADHD seal of Approval. In an extremely rare event, I read half the bloody thing before I put it down. That’s no small feat for me. 100 or so pages in and I finally lost my concentration. I cannot express how hard it is for me to complete a task of that nature. Basically, that never happens. So it’s important to note how compelling a read this was.
This is due to the simplicity of the story. Yeah, it’s tropey. Yeah, that makes it really cliche. Yeah, it’s not fucking Shakespear. What it is, is just a god damn good story of revenge. Bad guy, versus bad guy, may the bloodiest win. Its simplicity is what’s so good about it. This is violence for the sake of violence, not entirely unlike the movie Last Man Standing (1996). You’re just sorta rooting for the bad guy to shoot more bad guys. His reasons behind his actions are secondhand. Yeah, it’s good there is purpose there, it helps flesh out the story, but any excuse would have done. John Wick took on the Russian mob for killing his dog. Same as this, don’t ask too many questions about it.
Do I recommend this book? Yeah, if you’re not gonna be a wet diaper about it. I cannot stress this enough, if violence for the sake of violence, with a good story, doesn’t interest you, walk on, you’re not welcome here. But fuck yeah, I recommend this book.
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