This book was an interesting and fun Weird West (SFF + western) with a very unique set of characters, and it was those characters that really shone for me.
Jim was a great character and one I felt for in a protective sort of way. He was only 15, but he had to grow up fast and was already an outlaw. He found himself in Golgotha, looking for answers about his father’s magical jade eye. He was eager and sweet, and I liked him from the very beginning when he gave his horse his last bit of water, deciding that either they would both make it to town alive, or neither of them would. He also provided a newcomer’s perspective to the town, and his storyline was just interesting.
Jon, the sheriff, was also great and seems like a genuinely good person toward others.
Mutt was half Native American, among other things (non-human things), but the prejudice some people had didn’t stop him from being deputy or from caring for his town and the people in it. Mutt turned out to be lovable despite his gruffness, and his total lack of smoothness with Maude was endearing.
Then there was Harry, the closeted gay mayor and protector of some sort of holy treasure cache. I felt awful for him. He struggled so much with his sexuality in a time when it wasn’t accepted, and he felt guilty knowing he could never give his wife what she wanted. He was complex and imperfect, but he seemed like he was trying to be a good person.
Unfortunately I wasn’t quite as interested in the rest of the characters. I still don’t understand Maude’s backstory or what it is that she’s supposed to be/do. Auggie was keeping his dead wife’s head alive in a jar, forcing her to live as just a head with no one to talk to but him, so he was instantly unlikeable. Biqa, the fallen angel, seemed interesting, but I didn’t get to know enough about him.
The real problem I had was the writing. This book was kind of like a TV show with how it showed things going on all over town in lots of different characters’ lives rather than having one clear protagonist, which would be ok even if not my preference, except that it was head-hopping chaos. Sometimes we’d go a while in one POV, but other times I felt like I was being thrown from one character’s head to another’s to the omniscient narrator’s, sometimes from one sentence to the next. There was no clear delineation, and it was confusing.
As for the plot/pacing, it was a little slow at first—it felt like slice-of-life in a weird little town—but it eventually started to get more focused and picked up speed.
All that being said, I would like to read the next book because of how much I liked the characters and the friendships and relationships between them. Mutt didn’t have a lot of friends, but the friendships he did have were sweet and loyal. The conversation between Harry and his lover when Harry was trying to warn him was just awwwww. The way Mutt immediately brought Jim into the fold and tore down his wanted poster was nice, and the little exchange between the two of them at the end was adorable. I love how Mutt and Jon have become kind of protective of him. Even Mutt and Harry went from snapping at each other to showing each other some respect. And Harry never seemed to like Jim, so it was nice when Jim did him a favor. Lots of good feelings all around.
So overall, though I found the writing confusing, I thought some of the characters really stood out and made this a worthwhile read.
Anyone who likes sci-fi/fantasy, the Old West, good-hearted characters, and sweet friendships.