I received these from the publisher at no cost; the first was a freebie with the second.
The scene: Deadwood. I have no idea whether this was actually a real town but it appears to have become That Place Where Westerns Happen. The plot: a bad man needs killin’. This bad man happens to be some sort of demon, or shapeshifter, or something, named Temple; the one to do the killing is Gabriel, who seems to have been hunting Temple for a long time.
My favourite part about this story is the narrator. He’s not an entirely convincing Watson, all naive and stuff, but he does provide a really interesting perspective on the clash of two basically inhuman forces. It means that we get to see Gabriel as genuinely hurt and and hurting, which emphasises his grit when he gets back up again to confront Temple. It also means that we see the consequences for this sort of clash happening in a relatively normal little town. It’s a town that’s seen its share of killings, but nonetheless their appearance has an impact; and it has an impact on our narrator on a personal level, too. All of that made the story that bit more approachable, where otherwise it would have felt quite divorced from possibilities of empathy.
Written well enough, fast paced.
Pieces of Hate
I was expecting another with an uninvolved narrator. So when it turned out to be Gabriel himself, I was surprised and a little disappointed. I can see why Lebbon did this; this story, which certainly felt much longer than the first (not sure if it really was), gave Gabriel’s backstory and motivation for his quest to kill Temple. But I think that this could have been done in discussion with someone else, perhaps while on the voyage to Port Royal (the scene this time: en route to, and briefly in, Port Royal). That would have made it seem a bit less like Gabriel was moping around, and simultaneously wallowing in his fury and hate which were a little distasteful. I’m not saying he shouldn’t be angry for what happened, just that I got impatient and a little bored with all of the WOE FOR ME bits.
There was a lot going on in this story that didn’t involve the search for Temple. Some of it was showing Gabriel to be a bad-ass, which actually I didn’t need; it’s clear he is, and I think it would have been more impressive to have the clash between him and Temple show his chops, rather than killing maiming… well, not innocents, but not-Temple. Gabriel knows that he’s no saint and doesn’t claim to be, but it is hard to really be on the side of someone who is not-quite-as-bad-as the villain.
It wasn’t a bad story, although the pacing felt a bit off; I’m not sure I care enough to read the third in the series.