The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.
Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.
But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.
I suppose this novel would technically be considered a steampunk, but the steampunk aspects are very secondary compared to the horror elements. Tangling with vampires, cannibals and leprechauns, Westie is a fairly unlikable heroine, though you understand her rage directed at almost everyone. The bigger question might be why she has any friends at all. She’s got a drinking problem and a tendency to jump to conclusions about who killed her family, leading to a lot of people doubting her when the actual killers of her family show up. One of the weakest aspects of the book is actually how long people continue to not believe her while bodies and evidence pile up, a fact that could have save several lives at the end. This book is also violent. Like extremely violent for a YA novel. A lot of people are murdered and eaten, there’s a Bad Seed style little girl, and the vampire who owns a brothel is actually one of the sympathetic characters.
There are a lot of features at work here and the novel shouldn’t work as well as it does. Aside from some cliched elements, the bizarre plot of a teenage girl with a drinking problem on the hunt for the cannibals who killed her family functions well as a mystery. The romance element seems rather shoehorned in and Alistair is sort of a flat character, but the action is strong and carries itself in spite of any flaws. I was actually reminded of the Dead Iron series by this book more than anything else, which is a compliment.
4 out of 5