Reviewed by Sarina
TITLE: Once Upon a Time in the Weird West
EDITED BY: Tricia Kristufek
AUTHORS: Astrid Amara, Langley Hyde, Ginn Hale, Nicole Kimberling, C.S. Poe, Lex Chase, Verone Keyes, Tali Spencer, Shira Anthony, Kim Fielding, Jana Denardo, Andrew Q. Gordon, and Jamie Fessenden
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 400 pages
RELEASE DATE: December 16, 2016
This isn’t the same old Wild West. The usual suspects are all present: cowboys, outlaws, and sheriffs. There’s plenty of dust, tumbleweeds, horses, and cattle on the range, but there are also magical gems, automatons, elementals, airships… even dinosaurs and genetically modified insects. Roaming among the buffalo and coyotes, you’ll encounter skinwalkers, mad engineers, mythical beings cloaked in darkness, and lovers who stay true to their oaths… even beyond the grave. On this frontier are those at the mercy of their own elaborate devices as well as men whose control of time and space provides a present-day vision of the West. There might even be a dragon hidden amongst the ghost towns and wagon trains.
If you like your Westerns with a splash of magic, a touch of steampunk, and plenty of passionate romance between men, these genre-bending tales will exceed expectations.
Hold on to your hats, cowboys and cowgirls. The West is about to get weird, and you’re in for a hell of a ride.
This was a great collection! From true wild west shenanigans to the equivalent of a cattle drive on a distant planet, this book had a little bit of everything and totally has something for everyone. I was consistently thrilled with the stories and characters and often found myself surprised by the ingenuity of the authors; I was so into reading this book that the 400 pages just flew by! If you’re a fan of westerns at all then this is a must read for you but I’d recommend it to everyone because with the awesome selection provided, anyone that picks it up will find something to love.
Reaper’s Ride by Astrid Amara 4.5*
Fantastic start to the book; the blending of the Pony Express with the reaping of souls was really well done and totally enjoyable from start to finish. Its probably a little vindictive of me but I especially liked how Johnny managed to get a bit of his own revenge at the end. 😀 Loved it!
Wild, Wild Heart by Shira Anthony 3*
While I liked this one, it was one of the shorter reads in the book and as such was kind of lacking on details. I expected to get to see Al nursing Cyrus back to health, at least a little, and instead it was skipped over entirely and the book went straight to Al being injured. It was a nice enough story but the lack of depth had me failing to really connect with the characters in any meaningful way.
Ezekiel Crumb’s Heavenly Soul Purifying Elixir by Lex Chase 4.5*
Oh, this story was awesome! Nothing was as I thought it would be and I just love when that happens. 😀 Ezekiel is a man shaped by loss and what he considers to be the loss of his soul by conning others. He has nothing to really live for though so, why not? The reunion between him and Levi wasn’t exactly picture perfect but it was both men needed and the unexpected revelation about who Levi really is was just great! I especially loved how they got their ‘eternity’ together.
Corpse Powder by Jana Denardo 4*
This was a fun story with a really nice blending of elements. The steampunk was well done and I really liked the main characters; they were probably what I would consider a really unlikely pairing but I enjoyed them together nonetheless. Aside from the characters, I didn’t come across any new concepts here but it was well written and enjoyable and the ending made me smile.
The Sheriff of Para Siempre by Jamie Fessenden 3*
Okay, I have mixed feelings about this one. I didn’t get into the story right away and didn’t really care for it too much until Billy and Joe get set up. I will totally give props to the author for the ‘twist’ in the story, as I was so not expecting it, however, and I thought that bit of ingenuity was really well done. The story itself past that point, however, while interesting, was also on the depressing side and without a chance at a happy ending, I didn’t finish this one in a great mood. It was well written and I really liked the hope given at the end but this was probably my least favorite story in the book.
The Tale of August Hayling by Kim Fielding 3.5*
None of the characters were what I was expecting, and I liked that a lot, but the story wasn’t as in depth as I was hoping for. I find myself still wondering about the ‘curse’ and what will happen with August’s relationship because of it. The story itself was enjoyable but felt a little unfinished to me in places.
Time Zone by Andrew Q. Gordon 4.5*
I think this was possibly my favorite story in the collection. 😀 This was really the only story that didn’t fit in the ‘western’ theme like most of the other stories but instead just takes place in the western United States. I loved the diversity in the characters’ abilities and how Wesley uses his even when he knows it will get him in trouble. If this author ever made this concept into a series, I’d be all over it. Lol Great story with a great ending. 🙂
Get Lucky by Ginn Hale 4*
I’m a sucker for second chance stories and this one was no exception. Lucky and Dalfon were both victims of circumstance and unlucky timing but fate, and Dalfon, were determined these two would end up together. While I liked Lucky, it was Dalfon that really caught my attention, especially with how he went and ‘made something of himself’ so that he could prove himself a good provider and partner. The story itself was entertaining and while I would’ve loved to have seen the men after they made it to Chicago, I’m happy with where the story ended.
From Ancient Grudge to New Mutiny by Langley Hyde 3*
If you blended the Hatfields and McCoys with Romeo and Juliet and then through in magic and a western setting, you would have this story. There were concepts I enjoyed about this, but the story was just okay for me; I was never a particular fan of Romeo and Juliet (its by far my least favorite work by Shakespeare) and I didn’t get much of a connection with/between the characters. It was written well but I would’ve been happier with a longer search for answers or at least if I’d gotten to see James and Frank at the end.
POMH by Verona Keyes 3.5*
I liked this one by my enjoyment was overshadowed somewhat by the fact that this was really similar to another story I’d read in a different anthology. I liked Lorem but never really connected with him and I’m still a little confused by the ‘fairy steampunk godfather’ that was near the end. There’s a decent ending and the name explanation made me smile but the sudden Cinderella and Pinocchio-esque elements just didn’t work for me.
Oh, Give Me a Home by Nicole Kimberling 4*
While pretty much all the stories in this anthology blend the Wild West with something else, this was the other way around. I liked the alien setting with the homesteading concept and the MSTIs were kind of awesome, not gonna lie. You don’t get to see a lot of personal time with Gordon and Henry but it was easy to see how much they cared for each other. This was an interesting story with the good guys coming out on top, I enjoyed it.
Gunner the Deadly by C.S. Poe 4.5*
I loved this! Gunner and Gillian were just awesome together; both men ended up being more than they appeared but exactly what the other needed. There was also a ton of action in this one so I was never bored. The ending, while unexpected, was enjoyable and gave me hope for these two men in the future. I’d read more about these two in a heartbeat!
After the Wind by Tali Spencer 4*
The last story in the anthology, this was a pretty good story to end the book. I liked how the abilities first manifested in people and I especially liked seeing the Comanches fully embrace it. I do wish there had been a little more time with Rain and Micah together but was happy overall. The best, however, was the way the story ended; I’d have liked to have seen that, too. 😀