When writing “The Shotgun Arcana” R.S. Belcher apparently forgot to have sophomore slump. His debut novel, “The Six-Gun Tarot,” introduced us to a town named Golgotha. A frontier town only accessible by a 40-mile desert, Golgotha harbors ancient relics both divine and evil. Not by chance, though, for deep underneath Golgotha is a creature of the void. Predating creation itself and imprisoned by God, this presence attracts all sorts of trouble to Golgotha, mostly of the supernatural type. In fact, more trouble occurs in Golgotha than can truly be explored. Instead we just get off-hand remarks about rat people, walking cacti and other weirdness that’s plagued Golgotha, usually to great comedic effect. It’s hard to assign a genre to these novels. Weird western seems to fit, but there’s a healthy dose of steampunk and horror as well.
In this sequel, Belcher adds depth to his original cast while adding new members. There’s a Pirate Princess who’s a lethal assassin, a boy who controls the jade eye of a god, a gay Mormon elder tasked with protecting holy relics, a were-coyote who serves as deputy, a Pinkerton agent who’s undercover as a prostitute, and many more unlikely heroes.
The biggest stakes are played for by Malachi Bick, who’s actually the angel Biqa. Bick is tasked with guarding Golgotha’s darkest secrets and does so by oppressing the town economically. His rival is Raziel, an angel who’s mission is nothing less than bloody world domination.
There’s more action in “The Shotgun Arcana” than its predecessor, most of it bloody. Each character is given dedicated chapters which build to their eventual conflicts. It’s a slow burn leading up to the climax, but it also gives a richness to the characters and keeps the reader invested in their individual outcomes.
In short, “The Shotgun Arcana” is nothing short of brilliant. By its end, Belcher has sown plenty of seeds for future Golgotha tales. If you like the weird west, start reading this series as soon as possible.
The Shotgun Arcana
Hardcover Release – October 7th
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Dusty Wallace lives in the Appalachians of Virginia with his wife and two sons. He enjoys reading, writing, and the occasional fine cigar. Find him online: DustyVersion.blogspot.com and on Twitter: @CosmicDustMite