For my Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge, I needed to read a book from a genre I'd never heard of before. So I started searching for obscure book genres, and something called "weird west" popped up, so I searched for that and The Six-Gun Tarot came up. Luckily the public library system had a copy of it, so off I went.
It turns out, I have read a weird western before, I just didn't know what it was. Basically, weird westerns appear to be paranormal fantasy books set in the west, old or modern. The first one I read, without really knowing this was a genre of its own, was Welcome to Nightvale, which takes place in modern times. The Six-Gun Tarot follows a similar bend but its set in the years following the Civil War.
The book features an ensemble cast and is centered around the town of Golgotha, which rose up around Argent Mountain, home of both a silver mine and a sinister dark presence. The town has always been plagued by weird happenings--a bat-thing that snatched people off the street, something that drained animals and people of all the moisture in their bodies, little rat-people. The people of Golgotha are pretty much used to it, and things are mostly kept in check by the sheriff, Jonathan Highfather, and his deputy, known only as Mutt. Mutt is half-coyote and Highfather is apparently a dead man whose time hasn't yet come and survived not one, not two, but three hangings and who evidently can't be killed. Also on the page are Maude, a trained killer who's put aside her training to be the wife of a banker; Augustus, a shopkeeper who's keeping his dead wife's talking head in a jar of liquid in his apartment; and Jim, a young man fleeing the East where he's wanted for murder and who carries his dead father's magical stone eye in his pocket. All of these people are drawn together around a string of madness, murders, and disappearances that don't bode well for Golgotha, or the world at large.
I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would! I think Belcher did a great job of weaving together the many characters' stories and building the town of Golgotha. Totally weird, but with a good explanation behind it. I'm not sure that the whole God storyline really needed to be included, but eh, it was okay. Honestly, that seemed to be the least woven-in story, even though it was the background around which the rest of the book revolved. One thing I do think happened is that Belcher might have tried to incorporate a few too many main characters here. I like an ensemble cast, but this is a book series and so I think it could have been used to introduce some characters for future books while keeping the core cast smaller. Not all of the cast ended up being integral to the plot of this book, so I think their dedicated chapters could have been cut and small details about them instead sprinkled throughout the chapters dedicated to the characters who actually were central to this story; then the others could have been further expanded upon in future books. Because the non-central characters here had a lot of page time, it seemed like they were pushing aside the characters who actually had a bearing on the central plot.
But still, this was a very atmospheric book, and I really liked it. Unfortunately the library doesn't have the second book in the series and it looks like the third isn't actually out yet, but I'm interested in reading them if it ever comes my way.
4 stars out of 5.