Sunday, August 1, 2021

"These War-Torn Hands" by Emily Hayse

In some ways, I loved this book.  The sweeping visuals of vast open spaces and untamed horizons were glorious.  I loved one character and became exceedingly fond of several others.  The whole idea of retelling the King Arthur legends as fantasy-westerns is very, very compelling to me.  I loved the wild west vibes, and the addition of some magical elements was really nifty, but not overpowering.

My favorite character -- and this will not surprise anyone once I explain what he's like -- was Jack Selby.  He's quiet, soft-spoken, even shy.  He's very, very watchful and aware of his surroundings.  He's wildly skilled at tracking and shooting.  And most of the people in the town of Glory Mesa don't trust him because he used to ride with the Bad Guys.  Yeah, no idea why I'd fall for him.  Not at all the sort of fellow to attract me.  I never go for the quiet, valiant guys who throw themselves deliberately into harm's way to rescue other people or stop Bad Stuff from happening.  Never.  Lol.

I also really liked Raymond Lacey, older brother of the book's heroine.  He's a big, stalwart, reliable guy.  Same for Jesse Thatcher, who was probably my third favorite.  Any time any of those three were on the page, I was pretty well enthralled.  Toss in Kate Carnegie, the enigmatic bartender with a mysterious past, and Doctor Sikes, who holds more power than any old codger could be expected to wield, and you've got my top five right there.

The trouble is, none of those are the main character.  The main character is Rosamund Lacey, determined young woman coming west to marry Archer Scott, governor of the Territory.  And while I could admire her courage and honesty and love for Archer... I never really felt like I would like hanging out with her.  Which is a Me Thing and probably won't bother anyone else at all.

I had kind of a hard time getting through the middle of the book, for two reasons.  First, the whole thing changes POV characters every few pages.  And it took a long time to get to know the six POV characters well enough that I didn't have to keep flipping back to the list of characters at the front to remember who was talking now.  That kept yanking me out of the story, which was annoying.

Also, this is a TENSE book.  Very, very tense in many places.  So tense that I would start to stress out about the story and set it down to get some distance from it.  Most books don't do that to me, at least, not the ones I tend to read.  I don't enjoy books that stress me out, to put it simply.  This will not be a problem when I reread this book, as I'll know how it ends and not have to wonder about who will live and who will die, and so on.  

Yes, I liked this enough to want to read it again, later when more of the books have come out.  Maybe once the series is complete.  I'm keeping it on my shelf, because I did enjoy it, even if it took me longer to read than I had anticipated.  I'm very interested to see how more of the Arthur legends play out with these characters, and I very sincerely and eagerly hope that Jack Selby will get plenty of page time in book two, which I believe will be released this fall already.

(Mine from my Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

He's not one to look for trouble, but when it finds him, it regrets showing up (p. 21).

We get braver the closer to death we get (p. 177).

Sometimes men hold onto their dreams so tight the dream begins to smother them (p. 215-216).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for western violence and some scary moments involving dragon-like monsters.

This was my 35th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

14 comments:

  1. I've been looking for a western to read (I have another on my tbr shelf, and they are so nostalgic), but I also love fantasy. This sounds right down my alley!

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    1. Lissy, I think that westerns lend themselves very easily to blending with fantasy because they both often deal with the unknown, be it unknown frontier or unknown magical power. I definitely recommend this book.

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  2. I'm curious to try this one! I'm always looking for more Western fantasy. Jack Selby sounds like a lovely man, so that should be fun ;)

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    1. Katie, it's a very aesthetic book. I see books like they're movies when I'm reading them, and this had a very distinctive look to it, in my head.

      I'm now terribly worried about Jack Selby because whenever I pick a secondary character as favorite, something bad happens a few books into the series. Sigh.

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    2. Ahhhhh, The Aesthetic (TM)! I love me some books with a strong aesthetic!

      Well, hopefully I'll love him too, when I meet him, and then you and I can start a #Protect Jack Selby club.

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    3. Katie, sounds like an excellent plan :-D

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  3. "And most of the people in the town of Glory Mesa don't trust him because he used to ride with the Bad Guys."

    SOLD.

    Seriously though, I've been on the fence about getting this book, but it's going firmly to my TBR list now.

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    1. Yeah, definitely put it on your TBR list. It's very good.

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  4. I am in love with Jack Selby already.

    I have been considering reading this book. The note about it being a tense book makes me hesitate. I don't need to add stress to my life. Of course, no guarantee I would find the tension stressful, but.... it is worth considering.

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    1. Roxann, I mean, how can you not be?

      I could just spoil you on the ending, privately, if that would help with the tension. It wasn't as tense as, like, a John Grisham book. Which I've admittedly only read one of, lol. But it was a different kind of tension than in a murder mystery or a Jack Reacher book -- I was worried about the characters, basically. That something terrible was going to befall them all. I will probably adore this book and bump it up to 5 stars when I reread it because that will be gone.

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    2. Hm, well if it's not as tense as John Grisham then it's not in the "definitely too much suspense" category. I probably will give it a try!

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    3. Roxann, I hope you do! (And I hope it isn't as tense for your as a Grisham book, or I'll never get trusted again, lol!)

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    4. Ah, it will probably be okay. A bit of tension in the storyline is fine. A book that falls into suspense or thriller genres is not. Although, I have learned that a book of any genre that I liked everything except the ending is equally likely to keep me up at night. Sigh.

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    5. Oh, it's definitely not a suspense novel or a thriller!!! It's just got a suspenseful middle section. And just because it was suspenseful to me doesn't mean it would be to others -- I've learned that there are stories where I'm just cruising merrily along, enjoying the ride, and then friends will be like "I chewed all my fingernails off and had to finish it at 3am because it was so suspenseful." And then other times, it'll be the reverse. I was just really worried about the characters, lol!

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