Monday, July 2, 2012

Review >> Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, 324 pages (9781599906843)
Source: Purchased from Barnes & Noble

The year is 1867, and Jett Gallatin is traveling the western frontier in search of her twin brother. Disguised as a boy and feared as a lawbreaker, her journey has taken her to Alsop, Texas, where a bar fight turns into a fight for survival after the town is overrun with the reanimated corpses of the recently deceased. Barely escaping with her life, Jett teams up with a spirited young inventor and a Native American raised scout in order to uncover who is controlling this undead army, before it wipes out every town in its path. Don't mess with Texas, especially when it's overrun with zombies!

"Jett Gallatin expected trouble in Alsop, Texas- but not zombies."

Gunslingers? Frontier setting? Steampunk? Zombies? Dead Reckoning has all the makings of a wickedly fun read with the added bonus of being co-written by the lovely fantasy writer and guilty pleasure of many of my friends, Mercedes Lackey. At first glance, this might seem like an incredibly silly work of fiction meant for pure entertainment...and yeah, you would be right, but sometimes it's fun to take a break from truly emotional works and just loose yourself in a different time, in a different place, pitted against a hoard of zombies with nothing but your Stetson, a bottle of whiskey, and your trusty horse by your side. This is definitely not the kind of book I would have to mull over buying in a bookstore, this was one of those grab-you-by-the-spurs novels that forced me at gunpoint to pick up! I only wish it had lived up to the synopsis, but the story was ultimately wrangled, branded, and tamed before it even got the chance to prove itself as a wild stallion.

"The West was a place where you could come to shed your past, and plenty of folks took the opportunity to shed a lot more than that."

For me, one of the highlights of Dead Reckoning was that it possessed some kick ass Wild West gals! Jett Gallatin was a breath of fresh air after the unpleasant time I spent with my last literary heroine, Emma from Of Poseidon. She's smart, funny, devoted to her cause (and to her horse), and is not afraid to get her hands dirty in battle. These attributes are balanced by the fact that she is not just a phenomenal gunslinger but also possesses the fragility of a young woman coping with finding her place in a male dominated society. We also have the lovely Honoria Gibbons, a quirky young inventor who possesses a love of the scientific method and a bizarre steampunk vehicle called an Auto-Tachypode (and yes, I did have to look up to make sure this was indeed a made-up invention). I am actually incredibly sad that Gibbons didn't receive more of a prominent role in this story, even though she really lead the investigation into the creation and destruction of the undead. Our third hero played much less of a role in the story, and seemed to be added as an afterthought. Poor White Fox is a white boy raised by Meshkwahkihaki Indians and appears to have been included to create some sort of sexual tension among our female leads, but in the end he just sort of sits in the background smoking pipe tobacco and not really aiding in our heroes quest

"...she'd never worried about not being able to tell what he was thinking. The fact she could tell now scared her."

The downside to an otherwise enjoyable read was the fact that the story moved at a rather sluggish pace. Maybe I have the tendency to run my Westerns at a grueling pace a la the old Oregon Trail games but I was expecting much more action in a story set during both the Wild West and a zombie infestation. The book starts off with a bang, Jett arrives at Alsop and heads to the bar for the evening, only to find herself avoiding first a bar brawl, then a zombie brawl as the town gets overrun. From there, Dead Reckoning just sort of looses steam. Our heroes meet and spend the remainder of the story holed up in Alsop while making short excursions to a local religious commune, all the while investigating how one can scientifically make a zombie. Not exactly the glass shattering, gun-firing action one would expect from a book such as this. You will also be sad to hear that there are no more than 3 zombie "battles" throughout the entire novel. This all culminates in the unveiling of "the villain" and their "evil plan," which, might I add, was not exactly a shocker nor did it hold much meaning in the big scheme of things.

"Without bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all."

After a long day's journey, it's time to tether the horse and light the campfire for an evening of baked beans and good ol' campfire storytelling. Dead Reckoning was definitely entertaining, but not really as flushed out as I was hoping. There's a fair amount of historical detailing peppered throughout the book, and strong-willed female leads, but the predictable story, limited setting, and lackluster battles really made it a much slower read than it should have been. With little action and bare bones versions of our heroes stories, all I ended up wanting to do was caulk my wagon and float across the river to a more eventful story. Thankfully, I have enough bison meat and wagon wheels to last the remainder of the trail, and with any luck will find my journey takes me to Dead Reckoning 2!

"'Then I won't say 'good-bye'...I'll say vaya con Dios instead.'"

If you liked Dead Reckoning, you should also try:

Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic #1) by Patricia C. Wrede
The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth #1) by Carrie Ryan

**All quotes taken from Dead Reckoning

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