Disclaimer: I was provided with an electronic copy of this work, in exchange for an honest review.
I promised A.G. this one a month ago, and I’ll post it over on Goodreads, too. (But I’m watchin’ ya, Goodreads, which is why I’m archiving my GR reviews somewhere else as well.)
Non-spoiler review: A gritty revenge novella more closely related to classic showdown Westerns than most modern space opera, Brass Stars relies on trope-busting characters and a vivid, relatively low-tech setting to deliver a satisfying story with fast action and good plot twists.
Spoiler review: mutant Tashndelu Sand has honed her skills, her body, and her life into a weapon of vengeance against the human lawmen who long ago raped and murdered her mother. One by one, Tashn stalks and executes them, and keeps their brass star badges as bitter trophies.
The last man on her list is Brannigan, a crime boss who rules the desert township of Paradise.
She’s aided by Snyder, a serial killer enslaved in the body of a cyborg horse. Snyder could easily have been one of the weakest parts of this story, but A.G. wrote his part intelligently, realistically, and without a trace of the redemption that other writers might have forced onto the character. Tashn’s first childhood meeting with Snyder is all the more chilling when readers understand how they interact in the future of the story.
A widowed gunslinger and a mutilated pretty-boy lend gentler emotional aspects more traditionally found in female sidekicks. I’ve been seeing this reversal in spec fiction lately, and when it’s done well I love it (Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series, Scott Lynch’s ‘Gentlemen Bastard’ series).
Tashn herself is a strong protagonist who plots, suffers, and salvages victory – at the expense of some of her values, but to the benefit of others.
There is no snappy quick fix at the end of this story. It does offer the sense that Tashn is now free to build the life she wants.
Fans of Firefly, Dune, Jack Vance’s ‘Dying Earth’ novels, ‘Kill Bill’, and spaghetti Westerns will get this novella’s ironic moral ambiguity. Romance readers probably won’t.
4 stars only because I felt some of the action scenes might have needed a little clarification, and because I wanted to see more backstory on the ‘fading humanity’ universe.
Eggplant Productions buy link.
Amazon buy link.