Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie. For the wizards, Gunnie Rose has already acquired a fearsome reputation and they’re at a desperate crossroad, even if they won’t admit it. They’re searching through the small border towns near Mexico, trying to locate a low-level magic practitioner, Oleg Karkarov. The wizards believe Oleg is a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin, and that Oleg’s blood can save the young tsar’s life.
As the trio journey through an altered America, shattered into several countries by the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression, they’re set on by enemies. It’s clear that a powerful force does not want them to succeed in their mission. Lizbeth Rose is a gunnie who has never failed a client, but her oath will test all of her skills and resolve to get them all out alive.
Charlaine Harris really knows how to write engaging stories with fun characters. I’ve been a fan of her writing for many years now so I was pretty excited when I found out she was coming out with a new series. An Easy Death is a sort of post-apocalyptic alternate history weird western–that’s a lot of genre mashing but she totally makes it work here.
I absolutely loved the world the author created here. At some point the history of this world took another direction from our own. The Romanov’s escaped the revolution and came to the west coast of America where they eventually established The Holy Russian Empire, or the HRE for short. They are welcoming to those with magic, wizards, although it seems to be strictly regulated and these people are used in part to keep their Emperor alive since he suffers from a blood disease. America broke apart at some point and now there is a small portion in the mid-west called New America, while the rest of the former country has been taken over or ceded to neighboring nations. The borderlands are very western feeling, not just because of the desert location, but because of the sense of each town having their own law enforcement and everything outside of that being dangerous bandit territory. And yet there are some modern-ish conveniences if one can afford them, such as refrigerators. It’s a great mix and I think it leaves a lot of opportunity for future stories.
The plot was ok and served to move the story forward, but the real highlight was the characters and their interactions with each other. Our main protagonist, Gunnie Rose aka Lizbeth Rose, is such an interesting character. She’s young, but not at all inexperienced. You get the impression that people grow up fast in this world, especially in the border towns where there’s a sense of lawlessness akin to the wild west. Right off the bat things go very wrong and you’re rooting for Lizbeth to make it through the situation alive. From there she gets a very brief respite before she gets another job and has to set off again, not at all sure of what to make of her new charges.
Over the course of the book, Lizbeth is the only character we really get to know in depth. Her clients remain a bit of a mystery to her, and therefor to us as well. I didn’t mind this at all, I think a little bit of a mystery can be a fun thing. Here we have the plot circling around protecting these clients that she doesn’t know much about while someone is definitely out to kill them. With little information to go on, and no one wanting to fully trust one another, this keeps the story interesting as you’re trying to puzzle out who are these people and why they’re in danger and why they’re looking for the person they’re seeking out. With all the questions to be answered it makes for a very engaging read.
That’s not to say you don’t get a feel for the other characters, because you do. I ended up liking Eli a lot, even though he was such a mystery. He was such an interesting character! He’s not a overbearing alpha male type at all. In fact, he doesn’t seem to be very powerful at all and the role reversal is interesting, with Lizbeth being kind of tough (emotionally as well), and the body guard, while he’s the ‘softer’ feeling character. It made for an interesting dynamic, I thought. I was pretty pleased with that, now that I really think about it.
Overall I really loved this book. Characters have always been a strength of the author and I’m glad to see that continue here. The world-building was an interesting mix of elements that kept things feeling fresh. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more in this universe. 4/5 stars.
Thanks to the folks at Wunderkind PR and Saga Press for sending me a copy for review purposes. This didn’t affect the content of my review in any way.