Tag Archives: fantasy book review

Book review: The Six-Gun Tarot (R.S. Belcher 2013

There are no spoilers in this review beyond what you’d find in the first few chapters.

Rating: 4/5

I chose to read The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher for two reasons: one, I’ve read more western-based science fiction since I moved west, and two, I met Rod Belcher and heard him speak about the book twice. Belcher was such a pleasant and interesting person that I made note of his book, even though Six-Gun Tarot is more fantasy than I usually read (my friend Stephanie Hunter called the genre “paranormal western”). I really enjoyed Six-Gun Tarot and want to read more in this universe.

Six-Gun Tarot is set in a small 1880’s mining town in Nevada called Golgotha. The reader sees through the eyes of a dozen characters. The cast is refreshingly diverse for a western tale; we meet a teenage boy fleeing his crimes in West Virginia, an American Indian deputy, a death-defying sheriff, a housewife who’s more than she seems, a German butcher with a terrible burden, a Mormon mayor struggling to accept himself, and more. From the get go, you know that Golgotha is abnormal. The deputy is part coyote, the boy has a Chinese talisman; everybody is magic in their own way, and watching them work together was fun. I sometimes find fantasy snobbish: Harry Potter is special and muggles aren’t; Piers Anthony’s Xanthians are just plain better than the mundanes. I suppose the reader is meant to imagine themselves as one of the special ones, but so far I have not discovered magical acumen. Anyways, I felt that Six-Gun Tarot handled this aspect of fantasy well. The characters cared about action, not a sense of personal destiny or power.

Golgotha is one hell of a place; it was my favorite part of the book. The characters casually mention previous disasters; babies getting drained of blood and people going mad. And there’s something just not right up under the mountain… Golgotha feels wonderfully western and weird. It made me think of Carrizozo, one of the haunts of Billy the Kid, or of Tularosa, stuck between mountains and a desert of gypsum. For me, Golgotha was the protagonist. It draws odd people. We learn about its bars and its neighborhoods and its residents. We learn its geography. Belcher’s language really suits the setting. At one point, he describes the sunset as resembling a bruise. The only parts of the book I enjoyed less are the ones set outside of Golgotha.

Basically, Six-Gun Tarot was a fantastically fun read. If you like paranormal, you’ll probably like it. I almost exclusively don’t like paranormal. But great writing and memorable characters and setting can enliven any story. It was fun to enjoy a read outside my normal wheelhouse.



Book review: Dealing with Dragons (Patricia Wrede 1990)

There are no spoilers in this review beyond the first couple chapters.

Rating: 5/5

Dealing with Dragons is a humorous young adult fantasy book, the first in a four book series. I first read it when I was in middle school, and I just recently reread it. I enjoyed it greatly when I was younger and it was a fun little excursion now. I wanted to read something light that wouldn’t distract me too much from my own writing projects. This book was perfect for that.

The main character of the story is Cimorene, a smart and unconventional princess who is tired of the dullness of her life of embroidery and batting her eyelashes. To avoid a marriage to a dull prince, she leaves home to go live with dragons. In this universe, dragons keep princesses as helpers as a status symbol, and this is why princes are always saving princesses from dragons. Cimorene’s dragon sees the advantage to a sharper princess who can actually be a useful helper. Along the way, Cimorene learns about dragons, wizards, witches, and many magical things.

Many of the people Cimorene encounters are hung up on doing things the way they are expected to, often without any real additional reason. The story uses sly humorous references to familiar fairytales, such as sleeping beauty and St. George the dragon slayer, to explain why these various characters feel their obligations. Cimorene often succeeds because she thinks about the best course of action, she doesn’t just do what is expected.

For that reason, I think it would be a good book for kids, like it was for me. Kids get too hung up on how people will think of them, and not always with bad reason. Other kids can be eager to harshly deliver this message. In adulthood, what makes you different is usually valuable. Adults have to help kids resist the pressure to always conform. It’s also a good book for adults because it is a lovely and swift read. The whole book is only 212 pages long, and those are fast-moving pages. It would not be hard to finish this book in an evening.