My experience with the flintlock fantasy subgenre is limited mostly to Brian McLellan’s excellent Powder Mage universe, which has a very European feel to it, what with crowds of citizens screaming revolution-bloody-revolution, military coups, and countries waiting to pounce on their neighbours at the first sign of blood.
Bulletproof Witch: The Delivery of Flesh is a different beast, but no worse for it! Allow me, then, to go over the most interesting aspects of this 100-page novella, without spoiling any of the plot – The Delivery of Flesh won’t be out until mid-January, and I’d hate to take the opportunity from you, dear reader, to take your full enjoyment of this first chapter in Temperance Whiteoak’s story!
The setting is clearly inspired by stories of the Wild West; gun-wielding lawmen of the Federation (an analogue for the US) ride throughout the land, hunting outlaws down for their usual assortment of crimes – murder, thievery and— oh, yes! —unsolicited use of sorcery. Small outposts of civilization lay between large swathes of uninhabited land, filled with dangers. The nature of these dangers is most often demonic in origin – Whiteoak’s adventure kicks off with the hunt of a particularly nasty daemon by the name of Belial. Must be a common name, down there.
The prose is serviceable – it won’t strike you with elegance, but nor is it sloppy and lazy. It serves to depict this Wild West-like world well enough, though I don’t recall any particular scene remaining with me once I was done with The Delivery of Flesh.
What I did remember was Temperance Whiteoak’s overarching story. This Pistol Witch, as another character christens her over the course of the story, has a real bone to pick with a band of dangerous daemons no one seems to know much about. That was the plot thread I truly cared about – Temperance going after her enemies, vengeance on her mind.
The main plot we got, I will admit I didn’t get invested in, not as much as I would’ve liked. Temperance is forced to aid a marshal in escorting a sorcerer to a bigger settlement where she can get paid for capturing that Belial fellow; Temperance’s annoyance with, and disdain for, this escort duty translated to me, and didn’t let go entirely even as the tension rose on several occasions.
What I did like was the introduction of a spiritual culture different from the Federation and at odds with it. They gave me the good kind of mystical vibes, and I would’ve liked to spend more time with them. But alas, ‘twas not meant to be.
The climax of the story was handled well. A good amount of action, bullets flying left and right, and the main hero subverting the enemy’s expectations in an interesting way.
This novella has a few sweet illustrations, which set the tone for the world well enough. I’m always happy when the words I read come with pretty pictures to the side! I also like the cover quite a bit
You should read this, if you like:
- Wild West fantasy/flintlock;
- Stories that offer illustrations besides the text;
- Cool protagonists with a lot of potential in future novellas;
- Stories about outlaws and by-the-book lawmen;
- And more, prob’ly!
I’ll give this first novella of the series (and the author’s first self-published work) three and a half stars out of five. For Goodreads, I’ll round that up to four, though I’m leaning more towards “Like” than “Really Like”. There’s a little something missing for that extra mile but I think Francis James Blair will only improve from here on out. There’s a lot of potential to Temperance’s story, and I hope to see her next outing soon!