*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.*
I’m starting to think that fantasy/paranormal/weird westerns are starting to be guilty pleasure reads of mine. Dawn in Damnation authored by Clark Casey certainly fits this sub-genre and is a fairly quick read that is a lot of fun if you enjoy western settings. The book is also the first book in a series entitled “Damnation” which is the name of the town where the book takes place in. Damnation is also integral to the books interesting plot and unique quirks. Essentially, the town of Damnation is a sort of purgatory for the Wild West. For those who didn’t make it to heaven, but weren’t quite bad enough to get sent to hell in the Wild West or the American frontier, they wind up finding themselves in Damnation. Once in Damnation, a person finds out pretty quick the local lore and lay of the land. Basically the legend is that if you can go a year without shooting someone you might be able to go to heaven, but if you end up being shot or killed yourself, well, you go to hell. Also, this small town is completely encircled by a dust bowl that prevents anyone from escaping.
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So let’s start with the negatives of the book and get them out of the way first. For writing style there are sometimes a few too many similes and metaphors for my liking. The author does a good job creating a bleak western setting, but I just felt sometimes the comparisons or hyperbole were simply not necessary. Another thing was that there were a few characters in the book that seem to be prominent in the community of Damnation that are either barely mentioned or only alluded to in the book. Most notably these would be the Indians of the town along with their chief. (This may be addressed in the next book in the series since it is titled Dead Indian Wars.) The other character is the Blacksmith. This seems odd since the blacksmith is a central fixture of the economy of Damnation since he makes bullets for the community to use. He is only alluded to a little bit in comparison to another fixture of Damnation, the other being Sal the saloon owner. The only other major problem I had with the book was a sort of siege/battle scene. I just felt that the tactics involved seemed kind of odd when with the setup it seemed as if one side could easily win without too much of a problem.
Still, despite some flaws, Dawn in Damnation was an entertaining read. There are many characters utilized throughout the book and they all have different quirks and dispositions from their former lives. The author is also not afraid to have characters killed off, even some fairly major ones, which is definitely a good thing. What I really enjoyed with this book is that it is somewhat difficult to pin down who the main protagonist of the book is. Almost everyone is just surviving or trying to get by in Damnation, though there are several central characters. Among these central characters are a news reporter, gunslinger, and a pregnant woman (women being fairly uncommon and while being pregnant is a first.) Oh, there is also a vampire and pack of werewolves in Damnation as well. Another thing I really enjoyed in the book is the action and pacing. Some people may not enjoy action in almost every chapter for being too quick, but I certainly did. There are plenty of duels, gunfights, and brawls to go around. When you put a bunch of bandits, gamblers, cowboys, and frontiersmen together with nothing to do for days on end except to drink whiskey and play cards, plenty of opportunities for arise to vent some tension and boredom.
Overall, I really enjoyed Dawn in Damnation and its quick paced style and wide cast of changing characters. I was also intrigued by the interesting concept of Damnation perhaps being some sort of strange version of a western purgatory. I’ll definitely continue on with the series and if you enjoy fantasy westerns of any kind you should definitely give Dawn in Damnation a shot.
4 out 5 stars.