Title & Authors: Unicorn Western by Johnny B. Truant & Sean Platt
Genre & Publication Date: Fantasy Western, 2013
Book Description: “Cast out from the magical kingdom of The Realm and into the dying desert of the Sands beyond, Marshal Clint Gulliver and his unicorn Edward have finally found peace in the small and dusty town of Solace. For the first time since leaving The Realm, Clint has dared to be happy, getting hitched to his bride to be, Mai. But when the town faces a deadly approaching enemy, the gunslinger feels compelled unholster his seven-shooters to face it… and the dark magic it brings with it.
From the creators of Yesterday’s Gone (Platt) and Fat Vampire (Truant) comes this reinvention of both the western genre and unicorn lore. Written for children and teens — but complex and awesome enough for adult readers — Unicorn Western is “Harry Potter without wizards, with gunslingers, with talking unicorns and epic unicorn fights, and with more turkey pie.””
First line: Clint touched his guns.
My take: This genre crossover includes two awesome elements: Cowboys and unicorns. Sadly for me the execution of the story shot wide of the target (pun intended).
At 134 pages it’s a quick read and I’ve often found that the shorter the story, the more difficult it is to write. With less space to get things done there has to be what’s called an “economy of words”. Put another way, every word, every scene has to count double to propel the story and develop the characters. If this isn’t handled correctly the result is often either a rush job or a dull experience. I had the latter.
Per the typical western story formula, there’s news of an old nemesis with a grudge against the Marshal (our protagonist: Clint) on his way back to town with a posse of bad dudes at his command. Halfway through the book, the characters were still talking about the guy’s arrival without much else going on. Maybe this was supposed to build up tension but at the fifty percent mark, it was just frustrating. This is a western-fantasy after all. Give me some action!
The dynamic between Clint and Edward (the unicorn—he can talk) was supposed to be funny. But Edward behaved more like a grumpy jackass than a creature of power and dignity. Granted, I think the intention was to make him grittier and cast off the usual depiction of purity and innocence associated with them, but he came off as a jerk to me. And it might be my own personal taste, but I would’ve preferred the humor be a tad smarter than the incessant slap-stick antics that went on. These both disrupted what tension there was and seemed out of place.
There was also a relationship set up between Clint and an orphan kid, (Teddy—the would-be sidekick) but that seemed to be included more as a tool to get out a ton of exposition in conversation format. There’s a fine line between using dialogue as a subtle means to relay background information and being obvious about it. The line was fairly bludgeoned in this case.
The Magical: Loved the idea of unicorns set in the wild west. Totally unique. I also liked the concept of magic slowly leaking away in the world with the mystery as to why that’s happening (Not addressed in this book).
The Mundane: Step away from the Italics button! It started to feel like every other sentence had an italicized word in it. If the writers didn’t trust that the lines would be read the way they wanted, then they weren’t written correctly in the first place. Also, it started to drive me a little crazy that everyone would say “Yar” and “Nar” instead of “Yes” and “No”. This is not the Pirates of the Caribbean, right?
Summary of Thoughts: This is the first installment in a set of nine. It’s free on the Kindle, yet I can’t help but feel that the thin plot and the saw-it-coming-a-mile-away cliffhanger are a mechanism to get one to buy the rest. That’s great as a marketing tool of course, but only if the freebie is a demonstration of quality writing. After the first one, I’m afraid this cowgirl will have to saddle up with her ereader and mosey on into the sunset. I won’t be back for more.
Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews: http://www.amazon.com/Unicorn-Western-Johnny-B-Truant-ebook/product-reviews/B00AR7YTBM/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1