ARC Review: DESERT CREATURES by Kay Chronister (2022)

Genre: Adult Horror Western
Year Release: November 8th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a physical ARC from the publisher
Content warning: death of a parent (father), ableism, body horror, misogyny, gun violence, realities of pregnancy, dead baby

Magdala is an eleven-year-old with a club foot, on the run from her settlement with her father across the Sonoran desert, where desert sickness overtakes more organic matter, turning them into horrifying corpse-cactuses. It’s a little bit Annihilation (the movie) and a little bit Red Dead Redemption with a creepy atmosphere and unexpected but delightfully unnerving Christian religious overtones. Where faith in humanity clashes with faith in the divine, it’s a great perambulation through a nightmare scape where everyone kind of sucks, but the supernatural dangers aren’t much better.

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Light Novel Review: VAMPIRE HUNTER D Vol. 1 by Hideyuki Kikuchi & Yoshitaka Amano (2005)

Genre: Adult Dark Fantasy Science Fiction Western
Year Release in English: 2005
Buy Link: Barnes & Noble (Initially received via

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content warnings: violence, gore, threats of rape, misogyny

The hardest part of writing this review is figuring out which genre to slot this work into. The ’80’s genre classic, Vampire Hunter D follows the exploits of a dhampir, the eponymous Vampire Hunter D. He rides an electronic horse, has vampire powers, and uses a really cool sword to slay his half-brethren with. In this first volume, he goes to a town ruled by a Count, and a girl named Doris being preyed on by the vampires around. This first entry is fun with some rad world-building, definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of genre blends and vampire classics.

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Review: MALICE OF CROWS (The Shadow #3) by Lila Bowen (2017)

Genre: Adult Fantasy Western
Year Release: 2017
Source: Chicago Public Library

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Vomiting, animal violence, gore, gun violence, suicide, surgery, poison, fungus

Trans cowboy Rhett Walker is on the hunt for the alchemist who had run off with Cora’s sister across an alternate version of the U.S. West full of monsters and shifters. The battle to come is the fiercest yet. During his travels, Rhett ponders where boundaries between himself and The Shadow, especially as his found family grows closer together, despite their individual heavy baggage and destinies to come.

This book’s pacing is exquisite and I read it in two sittings. The cliffhanger at the end, however, was so cruel, I immediately requested the fourth and final installment from the library.

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Review: CONSPIRACY OF RAVENS by Lila Bowen (2016)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult speculative fiction/fantasy western
Year Release: 2016
Source: Library physical copy

The Wild West reimagined with more monsters and queer folk definitely is having a bit of a moment. Wake of Vultures, the first installment of The Shadow quartet, introduced us to Nettie Lonesome. In this sequel, Nettie fully becomes Rhett Walker, a truth which helps him get better at shifting. This book also introduces other shifters and new characters.

Much like the first installment, this book is so much fun. The monsters are terrifying, the villains are dastardly, and everyone has survival on the mind so no one can really be trusted. Rhett undergoes so many excellent sequences of self-discovery throughout. They range from him spending quality time with his gender identity and having a variety of romps with several characters.

The antagonist of this novel is also so good. A true robber baron stealing blood from magical creatures (seriously, there’s a unicorn). Bowen does a great job outlining the rules of magic, so the twist is both shocking but makes the reader feel smart for figuring it out.

A rootin’, tootin’, shapeshiftin’ time in the weird west with some decent trans rep.