For years, Westie’s hunted the cannibal family that killed hers and took her arm; now they’ve arrived in Rogue City to invest in the machine her adoptive father, Nigel, is building to protect the area’s humans from magical creatures, but he’s reluctant to believe her.
Nigel designed her mechanical arm and later rescued another child victim, Alistair, and built his mechanical voice box. While they used to be close, he’s distanced himself from Westie (long in love with him), which hurts. Her friend Bena believes her, but her people, the First Nations Wintu, are losing their ability to work the magic that keeps them safe and sustains the dome, and they need Nigel’s machine. As evidence mounts that the Fairfields are indeed cannibals, Westie’s drinking habit returns. Determined to vanquish it for good, she chooses a cure (vampires are involved) that’s equally dangerous. Shadowing her everywhere, Alistair remains aloof, unlike James, the handsome newcomer and the Fairfields’ nephew, or Costin, the dangerous, alluring vampire with a thing for Westie. Her strong character—smart, impulsive, funny, and unfeminine (in a good way)—ties this sometimes-reckless conflation of genres into a mostly convincing, mostly seamless whole (the extremely low-maintenance horses are an exception).
This strong debut will delight fans of the genre, especially its Western subdivision, and despite a few passages that make the Donner Party look like vegans, the suspenseful plot should keep even squeamish readers engaged. (Steampunk. 14-18)