Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Western
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books (an imprint of Little, Brown and Company)
“Welcome to Cessation, Serendipity Jones. The last place on the continent where you can do whatever the hell you want.”
I didn't know Gunslinger Girl existed before the day it arrived on my doorstep. I didn't know what to expect, only what the cover and the blurb suggested: an explosive blend of futuristic dystopia and Wild West laced with danger, conspiracies and intrigue. It is with great pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, to declare that Lyndsay Ely's debut stayed true to its promise!
“The sun has set, and the moon begins to rise. Now is the early black. Now is the time of magic and mysteries, of darkness and devilry. I welcome all of you, new friends and old, to the greatest show on the continent, to the theatre to end all theatre! Welcome to the Theatre Vespertine!”
After a devastating Civil War that left the country in ruins, the Confederation of North America arose, trying to stabilize its rule using raw brutality against the Patriots and a mix of propaganda and strict rules towards its supporters. Serendipity 'Pity' Jones, in a desperate need to escape from her cruel father, fled from her commune taking with her only her mother's six-shooters. An unfortunate occurence led her to Cessation, the City of Evil, where no laws apply and the greatest show on Earth, Halcyon Singh's Theatre Vespertine, gives mesmerizing and deadly performances. Death here becomes a spectacle. Pity finds a home in this peculiar city, but living in Cessation, performing in the Theatre, has a terrible cost. Between ambitious politicians and cunning bounty hunters, Pity faces the dilemma whether Cessation is worth saving or it should be left to crumble.
“Welcome, all of you, Serendipity Jones - deadliest shot in the west!”
While you read Gunslinger Girl, you realise one thing: Theatre Vespertine is more than a show. It's a challenge to all sensations, a vibrant spectacle that feeds the masses and gives them blood to quell their thirst. But when the spectacle is over, when the curtains fall and the blood is mopped up, it doesn't mean that the performance is. For even a lawless and vile city that deals in political favors, secrets and desires, that offers lust, freedom and wild abandon, needs a semblance of order and authority, before the gangs take control or the victims of freedom start piling up. Lyndsay Ely's world is vivid and ferocious; she doesn't elaborate much on the world-building, and this is one of the rare occasions that it's fine by me because she manages to impart the essence, the danger of her world without fanfares and boring details, but her story is still engrossing, especially once you turn the first pages.
In Cessation, and Pity's world in general, there is no black and white, bad guys versus good guys. All of them are morally grey, using any means necessary to achieve their goals and exploiting weaknesses of their enemies' and allies' alike to their own gain. In this parade of dubious, intriguing characters, of prostitutes and performers and artists and politicians, Pity Jones is the leading star. For the sake of honesty, I have to admit that I didn't feel connected to her character, but this detachment didn't prevent me from enjoying her story. Other characters, like Max and Selene and Beau provoked stronger reactions (whether good or bad you have to read Gunslinger Girl in order to understand), and they were colourful and a great addition to the plot. The combination of diverse characters, thick suspense, mind games, plots and action, revelries, debauchery resulted in a sinful ambience, and along with the sweet and slightly angsty romance they created a page-turner and a remarkable debut! Judging by the way this book ended, I'm fairly positive there will be a sequel, one I am looking forward to reading!
Gunslinger Girl is an intense adventure, and I highly recommend it!
*An early copy was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*