Book Review: A Red Winter in the West by C.S. Humble

“Humble doesn’t disappoint … Fans of the weird western genre who enjoy their stories with equal parts action and horror told with captivating characters will LOVE this book—we sure did!”

 

A Red Winter in the West by C.S. Humble - coverIt has been almost two years since we were introduced to the work of C.S. Humble with his weird western, The Massacre at Yellow Hill, an action-packed debut that introduced us to the ominous and sinister Society of Prometheus and those who fight to protect the human race from the evil group. There was a lot of potential in his debut to open up the world he created and expand on the complex characters and their complex lives. So, we were thrilled to discover that his forthcoming book is book two in the epic weird western “The Survivors Trilogy”.

While book one took place exclusively in the Old West of the US, predominately the two small towns of Yellow Hill and Big Spring, book two seeks to expand the scope of the action. Those who survived the eponymous massacre of book one have spent the intervening few years haunted by the horrors they witnessed and stories of the greater threat posed by the Society. Their world has grown increasingly darker and colder, the normally warm climate becoming ever frostier while sightings of strange creatures and news of savage attacks continue to circulate. For the heroic members of Peregrine House, led by Judge Ellison, the horror is only beginning.

There are returning characters from book one who take separate chapters to explore their own development since the events in Yellow Hill and where they are currently in the fight, before the actions of the Society bring them closer together to face their enemies. Without spoiling the story of the first book (you really ought to read it … ), we can say that Humble continues with his wonderful ability to create well-rounded characters with whom we either sympathise or detest, depending on which side of the fight their loyalties lie. Returning characters are consistently great, with the new development and challenges they face clearly taking their toll on them, but also giving them great potential for growth, which Humble conveys very well.

The threat of the Society also experiences great growth as we discover more about their insidious plans and the implications, not only for our protagonists, but also for the Earth. While book one skirted the idea of cosmic horror, book two fully embraces it. The ultimate goal of the Society and the horrific practices they use to torment their victims taps into the themes of the cosmic, with the secret society and their worship of something terrifyingly greater than our comprehension, the use of arcane magic to complete their rituals and the sacrifice of their enemies.

And there shall certainly be sacrifice before the end of the book. For those that have read the first book and followed the survivors through the sequel, becoming emotionally invested in the heroes, heartache awaits. Humble does not shy away from wielding the axe when it comes to the protagonists. Not everyone is destined to die by the end of this book—we do have book three to come, after all—but no-one is exempt from a bloody end in the fight for the human race. A dark, bleak tone is maintained throughout with few opportunities for levity or comic relief. It may seem like a strange parallel to draw but, considering it is the second part of a trilogy and ending on a very bleak note, it is reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back. Despite surviving the events in Yellow Hill, the protagonists feel the full force of the villains of the story as they try to strike back, to quash this resistance, and leave the world a darker place.

Much like with its predecessor, Humble works to deliver the action at a tremendous pace. Each character arc is allowed to develop naturally in each separate chapter before they become tightly entwined to form the one, strong main thread of the story. The lulls are few and far between and utilised to great effect to further develop the characters, or explore the history of the Society and how they came to be opposed by the Peregrine Estate. Also, moving the action from a small town in Texas to Colorado and Chicago allows Humble to explore city life and how the characters adapt, as well as introducing exciting aspects such as the Gunfighter’s Guild (doing so through the story of Sven and Larry was simply wonderful) and the Red Kingdom (which will surely be explored further in book three).

We were excited to see what this author would deliver after his thrilling debut, and Humble doesn’t disappoint. He has taken a strong opening section for the trilogy and built on it by further developing already strong characters while introducing some equally well-written newcomers, both good and evil. He handles both sides of the epic battle with a great deal of care and attention. Motivations are clear and the character interactions are compelling, the dialogue true to the time of the setting while being relatable to a modern audience. Scenes of confrontation between the two sides are action-packed and leave the reader breathless, and the author doesn’t hold back with the descriptions of the horrific injuries some face in the line of duty. Fans of the weird western genre who enjoy their stories with equal parts action and horror told with captivating characters will LOVE this book—we sure did! But they’d do well to read book one first. Based on the first two books, The Survivors Trilogy could well become a classic of the genre.

THOMAS JOYCE

Publisher: Independently Published
Paperback: 287 (pps.)
Release Date: 20 April 2020

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