It’s 3:10 to Yuma Meets Fantasy in Arianne Thompson’s Newest Book
The story of Appaloosa Elim continues.
Two years ago, the crow-god Marhuk sent his grandson to Sixes.
Two nights ago, a stranger picked up his gun and shot him.
Two hours ago, the funeral party set out for the holy city of Atali’Krah, braving the wastelands to bring home the body of Dulei Marhuk.
Out in the wastes, one more corpse should hardly make a difference. But the blighted landscape has been ravaged by drought, twisted by violence, and warped by magic – and no-one is immune. Vuchak struggles to keep the party safe from monsters, marauders, and his own troubled mind. Weisei is being eaten alive by a strange illness. And fearful, guilt-wracked Elim hopes he’s only imagining the sounds coming from Dulei’s coffin.
As their supplies dwindle and tensions mount, the desert exacts a terrible price from its pilgrims – one that will be paid with the blood of the living, and the peace of the dead.
Sequels can always form an interesting problem; can they live up to the standards of the first entry, do they stay true to the characters you were introduced to, and how well does it progress their story? Last year I was fortunate to have read One Night in Sixes, the first entry in the Children of the Drought series. I made the comparison that the first book was similar to The Unforgiven, but with a very sci-fi skew. The book was a thrill ride and was something very fresh and new that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Since then I have been awaiting the arrival of the second book in the series to see where the story of Appaloosa Elim goes next. Well the wait is over and Medicine for the Dead is here. So the question is, how does it hold up?
To put this in perspective, if One Night in Sixes was Thompson’s Star Wars, Medicine for the Dead could easily be considered her Empire Strikes Back. It’s bigger, it’s faster, and it has more twists (one that I really wanted to say I saw coming, but I didn’t). So lets take a closer look at another book from Arianne Thompson that deserves your attention.
Thompson takes the world that she introduced us to in Sixes and brings it to another level with taking our hero Elim out on the road as he is being ushered to his own execution. The plot device reminds me quite a bit of 3:10 to Yuma, where much like the outlaw Ben Wade in the film who is being brought to trial for his crimes, Elim is being taken along the same path into a foreign land full of frightful things. Also much like Yuma where Wades men pursued the group who were ushering the man to trial, Elim also has a surprise character hot on his trail and eager to see him freed. Though Wade was an outlaw where Elim is not the parallels can be seen. Thompson has a great head for blending western plot devices with fantasy and science fiction.
The characters within are fantastic, rich characters that just seem to remind me of something from a George R.R Martin novel. There are no one dimensional characters with Medicine for the Dead; they are well thought out and all have their part to play in the overall plot.
Sixes showed quite a bit of world building, though we were essentially left within the walls of Sixes we were introduced to several different cultures and their motivations. She showed us some things but not to the point where we were overwhelmed with new characters and information. Medicine takes that knowledge we were given and gets us out on the road to see the world that Thompson has put before us.
The mystical qualities that she has incorporated are great because it’s not like your typical western where at night the group will laugh and hang around a campfire and be at a relative ease. Heading through the desert wastes to get to their destination is full of things that could go bump in the night and you can feel the tension within the group as they try to make their way home to put Elim on trial.
Without spoiling anything, I can safely say that this is another great adventure in a world where genres clash. Some questions are answered but even more come up, pulling the reader along. This by far is one of those “you should have gone to bed an hour ago but you just can’t put it down” kind of books that deserves all the attention it can get. It’s a rewarding read.
Westerns and science fiction/fantasy have always been some of my favourite genres, and to see them come together so well and blended into something so cool and such a pleasure to read is always a treat. If you are looking for a well blended and creative look into what the twisting of several genres can producer, check out the next entry in the Children of the Drought series by Arianne Thompson. You will not regret it.