This is a really great thriller with a memorable character: Gunnie Lizbeth Rose. Gunnie being both her title and her profession a hired gun. Lizbeth is just nineteen but already a valued member of a crew; a professional group hired to get someone or something from place A to place B in a wild west sort of environment. Lizbeth lives in Texoma, a section of what was once the United States until President FDR was killed and the country decimated by the influenza leaving it vulnerable to predations from Mexico, Russia and even Canada. The west coast, including what was California and Oregon, now belongs to the Holy Russian Empire and Tsar Alexei rules in exile.
Lizbeth is left without a livelihood when all of her crew but her are killed while on the job. She is approached by two Russian grigori (witches) who want to hire her to protect them while they search for someone. No one likes or trusts grigori who are powerful and super scary but the money is good and Lizbeth has her own personal reasons for agreeing. The grigori are hunting a man that Lizbeth killed and she isn’t willing to tell them that. She needs to know more about the why before she tells them that she killed her own father. As it turns out, her father is necessary to maintain the continued good health of the ailing Tsar but it isn’t clear exactly why. Lizbeth begins to fear that should they find their hunt to be useless, they’ll discover a use for her and she’s sure she won’t like it. But there may be another…
The two grigori are Paulina a very scary and dangerous witch and Eli a very hunky and potentially dangerous witch. Their relationship is very curious and puzzling to Lizbeth but she gains a healthy respect for both as the three of them are continually assaulted by other deadly grigori. Lizbeth really wants to know who their true adversary is but isn’t ready for the truth when she finally gets it.
It is a story from one point of view and much of it is a journey. While the plot is fairly simple, it’s the characters that are appealing. The world-building is spare and we see only what is relevant to Lizbeth; as it should be. There is no action concerning her outside her immediate environment so we don’t have any international perspective; nor do we know what is going on inside the Holy Russian Empire. Lizbeth doesn’t particularly care about Tsars and power struggles; she cares about her clients and her own skin. And maybe a refrigerator…
The one thing missing is an ensemble cast. Ms. Harris did well with her Midnight and Sookie series by having a diverse and interesting cast of characters. In this, there is only Lizbeth. I’m curious to see what happen in the next story.
Lizbeth is a very engaging character, maybe more so due to her age. She is a remarkable young woman with a great deal of self-awareness and a strong ability to make instant decisions. A wonder that such a person came from such poor and simple stock. She’s fun and I’d like to see where Ms. Harris takes her. And I loved the closing sentence. ~~ Catherine Book
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