Reviewed by Ami
Title: Once Upon a Time in the Weird West
Authors: Tricia Kristufek, Astrid Amara, Langley Hyde, Ginn Hale, Nicole Kimberling, C.S. Poe, Lex Chase, Venona Keyes, Tali Spencer, Shira Anthony, Kim Fielding, Jana Denardo, Andrew Q. Gordon, Jamie Fessenden
Genre: MM Miscellaneous
Length: 466 Pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: December 16, 2016
Available at: Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads
Blurb: 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.
Review: When I first saw Once Upon a Time in the Weird West being listed over at Dreamspinner Press website, I almost screamed with joy. How could I not — the list of authors participating on this anthology is INSANE! These are some of my favorite authors in fantasy/urban fantasy category!! The idea of having them in one book — total 12 stories, of 143k words — is exhilarating.
As always with anthologies, some I loved more and some I liked less. My favorite of the bunch is the first story from Astrid Amara, Reaper’s Ride, because I thought it felt complete despite its length and very satisfying. The least favorite is the one from Nicole Kimberling, Oh, Give Me Home, mainly because the sci-fi element made me feel detached the whole time. The rest of them are ranging from good to really good 🙂
I only gave a short review for each story; I apologize in advance.
Reaper’s Ride (Astrid Amara): I loved it!
Gah, I LOVED this! Astrid Amara is definitely stays as one of my favorite authors. This tale about Johnny Jenkins, who is temporarily taken over as station keeper of the Pony Express at remote Jacob’s Well, who ends up meeting Sye Fairchild, one of the grim reapers SATISFIED me so much. Amara writes their meeting, their attraction to one another and their background story REALLY well. I loved how the relationship progressed, and I loved how Johnny showed how awesome he was during that last chapter.
The only let-down for me that it wasn’t a couple of chapters longer because — I can’t believe I’m saying this — I totally want to read them doing penetrative sex *face palm*. Yeah, see, when I’m that invested with the characters, I totally beg for sex scene.
Wild, Wild Heart (Shira Anthony): I really liked it!
I genuinely wished that the story didn’t start in the “middle,” as I would’ve loved to have read how Al found the wounded Cyrus and nurtured the boy back to health. I missed the beginning of their story. I wanted to read how Cyrus pined over his savior. Other than that, I thought this was really lovely — despite the short length, Shira Anthony was able to describe both men’s feeling towards one another really well. Plus, a man with mechanical heart! Man, how I dig that!!
Dr. Ezekiel Crumb’s Heavenly Soul Purifying Elixir (Lex Chase): I really liked it!
That title was EXCELLENT wasn’t it? The revelation of Levi’s real identity, and what happened all those years when he was ‘supposed’ to be dead, made my eyes bulge. I totally didn’t see THAT coming (and no, he’s not a vampire nor a zombie). The point is I thought the core of this story was really romantic. How love survives across space and time. That epilogue, it KILLED me *sigh happily*.
Corpse Powder (Jana Denardo): I really liked it!
This story has an airship, pirates, and a skinwalker!! Plus an interracial relationship between a Jewish and a Navajo man. It was another winning story for me. I loved how Isaac and Tsela connected — LOVED the action with the pirates and the skinwalker. I don’t encounter many skinwalker stories within the M/M genre for sure. The romance was sweet and the ending satisfying
The Sheriff of Para Siempre (Jamie Fessenden): I really liked it!
This story is bittersweet. It definitely didn’t have the ‘happy’ tone like the previous ones, even if this features a couple in an established relationship. My heart broke for Joe Brady when that tragic event happened to his lover, Sheriff Billy Slade. It was kind of creepy too, come to think about it. Even if I can argue that the ending was, well, somewhat HEA? It was still a strong story, though.
The Tale of August Hayling (Kim Fielding): It was good.
The story starts with August being approached by a stranger to help him find treasure of gold hidden in a cave. When August and the stranger finally find the cave, the story takes a twist which pretty much surprised me! I liked August enough as well as his calmness for taking the news revealed in front of him. I wasn’t charmed on the romance though; because it was pretty quick as a result of the twist.
Time Zone (Andrew Q. Gordon): I really liked it!
Andrew Q. Gordon is a new-to-me author, and I enjoyed this one a whole lot. The story focuses on Wes as the sole narrator. I felt like I knew him well as a character, what makes him ‘difficult’ most of the time. It focused on Wes’ personal development, the way he finally opened up to the new partner, Eric, who ended up being his friend. There was also a side plot of Wes having a crush over his handler, Lothar, whom he had never seen face to face. The ending of this was lovely and brought a smile of joy.
Unfortunately, Wes and Eric’s gift, and the ‘action’ plot felt a little too sci-fi for me to enjoy completely. I didn’t totally understand how Wes’ gift of bending time and space worked, especially during that assignment with Eric. *shrugs* Plus I would’ve preferred for Wes to spend more time with Lothar rather than Eric.
Get Lucky (Ginn Hale): I really liked it!
At first, the dinosaurs threw me off. Yep, I thought, wait … what? Triceratops? What kind of world-build was this? But then when Lucky encountered his former lover Dalfon, I was charmed. What can I say, I’m a total sucker for “one who got away” theme. I could feel that Lucky and Dalfon truly still loved each other; it was just bad luck what happened three years previous. So the romance was sweet, and Dalfon could quote poetic speech that made me smile. I still didn’t understand Lucky’s power that much, though.
From Ancient Grudge to New Mutiny (Langley Hyde): It was good.
A retelling of Romeo and Juliet; completes with two families in feuds over precious magic minerals. While I liked the story enough, I wish I had more scenes with James and Frank together. Sure, the boys said that they had been pining over one another since childhood, but this story was too short for the romance to make such a big impact on me. Plus I had a big grudge over families that collar their kids like the Caplins and Montgomeries (totally a great renaming for Capulet and Montague, by the way!)
POMH (Venona Keyes): I liked it.
This one was sweet! Lorem animates a mechanical assistant who resembles his former one (whom he loved, by the way) and names it “POMH”. Then this inventor tries to steal Pomh away. I loved the resolution for this story. I wished that Lorem and Pomh had more scenes together though. By the way, the meaning of POMH was TOTALLY romantic!!! Plus this story had a dog 🙂
Oh, Give Me Home (Nicole Kimberling): It was okay.
Unfortunately this felt a little too sci-fi for me to enjoy. I felt detached the whole time. Plus I just didn’t get the romance *shrugs*
Gunner the Deadly (C.S. Poe): I really liked it!
Oh my, this one was DELIGHTFUL. What a fun way to end this anthology. I loved the adversaries-turned reluctant teammates-turned lovers between Gillian and Gunner. Plus a man that can harness and hurl lightning is a bad-ass, in my humble opinion. I loved when Gillian found out that Gunner wasn’t that straightforward criminal like he thought at first. Their first kiss was explosive.
After the Wind (Tali Spencer): I liked it.
I thought this was sweet – I enjoyed how Rain used his ability. He broke my heart at first, being sold like that. I loved Micah for treating him well. I wished I had more time with Rain and Micah together. But the ending was lovely, for sure.
Overall Impression: I really liked it!
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.*