A few weeks ago, I stumbled across an unexpectedly good book. His Ragged Company is a little bit western, a little bit steampunk, and infused with a kind of subtle magic that defies definition– it just is. Like the sun rising in the east or the stars turning overhead, odd people gravitate to the town of Blackpeak, Texas, and odd things happen there. In this regard, the first half of His Ragged Company is reminiscent of the writing of Ursula K Le Guin and Charles de Lint.

When weird things start happening around –and to– resident sheriff Elias Faust, he doesn’t wonder much about it. As the strange incidents and their resulting body count begin to grow, it becomes clear that there’s more threatening the small mining town than the occasional group of bandits.

With the help of a few plucky and uncommonly tough allies, Elias finds himself facing off against a host of unpleasant people who want to claim what lies beneath Blackpeak. His resistance– and his uncanny ability to cheat death– make him obstacle numero uno.

In addition to creating a thoroughly entertaining cast and a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat, this author writes powerful female characters exceptionally well. As much as I liked Elias Faust, the man who takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin,’ the story wouldn’t have been the same without the colorful characters who cross his path at opportune times.

The second half of the book gets a little less mysterious and a lot more bloody as Blackpeak’s enemies bring the fight to Elias. I have to admire an author who can kill off and resurrect his main character as many times as Rance D. Denton does. I also admire the fact that the author doesn’t stoop to killing off Elias’s friends for dramatic impact. Well… except for that one time.

His Ragged Company is a weird west thrill ride, full of unexpected and surprising twists and turns. Definitely one of may favorite reads of this year!

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