Gunwitch is a colonial American adventure story told through the fascinating goggles of Steampunk. So this novel already has a head-start with me. Firstly, it happily resides in a fantasy sub-genre in which I have a keen interest and secondly, I’m already a bit of a fan of the author, David Michael. So it encouraged me that the story grabbed me immediately. The gunwitch concept is not fully revealed at once and Rose’s history is shrouded in mystery slowly revealed via parallel timeline throughout the novel. The author cleverly got me fascinated with Rose and her history, her friend Chal with mysterious powers that Rose wants to keep hidden, the very cool Ducoed who obviously has an unpleasant past relationship with Rose and even Colonel Laxton, the destination of the escort job. I couldn’t possibly have been more “hooked” in the early stages.
The story is a multiple point-of-view tale and we get to see the journey mainly through the eyes of Rose, Ducoed and Margaret, one of Colonel Laxton’s daughters. Additionally, the story covers two timelines, that of the trek through the Bayuk and that of a younger Rose and Ducoed before they became gunwitches for the King’s army in England. I enjoyed the early story of Rose as it helped flesh out her character and allowed me to gain an understanding eventually into the enmity between herself and Ducoed.
As expected, the trip through the Bayuk was not without incident. And this is where I became a little lost. Up until a point we’re travelling with a small party until a surprise attack from an unknown foe separates Ducoed from the others. From here, the story alters significantly. I mainly had difficulty with this section because of the sudden introduction 0f new creatures with similar names that remained confusing to me throughout the rest of the book. The shift was jarring; I either didn’t cope where I should have, or the author could have transitioned a little better. Unfortunately, this was not the only place where I felt a jolt. A stray sex scene spilled clumsily into view and the resolution for Margaret and Chal definitely needed further development to flow smoothly for me. In all cases the problem wasn’t the content itself, but rather the transition.
Even though I faced some disappointments from a story point of view, I didn’t have similar complaints about the characters themselves. They were all worth the effort and I would enjoy reading more about them. Rose was a great character – tough, but insecure. She’s the heroine of the story and definitely a worthy one. Her back-story was intriguing, with her reactions to Ducoed expertly crafted to have me wanting more information. There was little to disappoint. The secondary characters were equally interesting, particularly Ducoed whose background, while very similar to Rose’s, resulted in a very different character evolution.
I don’t think this is the only King’s Coven story planned by the author. An allusion to a dishonourable discharge from the army for Rose was not actually explained at all, but was obviously related to a significant incident in the past relating to Ducoed. The lack of disclosure by the author makes me think a prequel may be on the cards. There’s quite a bit of scope for a sequel also with enemies such as Umoya defeated but not necessarily vanquished.
Despite some clunkiness, this is a good story. The gunwitch concept is quite interesting, the kind of power hinted at in characters like Chal and the dark Umoya made me hope for more stories to be told in this world. Furthermore, Rose is a great vessel for a Steampunk romp through the frontier of Amerigon – the author’s version of America.
I think if you like Steampunk and are interested in a variation of the sub-genre in a setting outside of Victorian England, this could well be of interest to you. Of course, if steam-powered soldiers, gun-wielding witches and warlocks, reanimated corpses forming a relentless infantry and nature spirits incarnate don’t grab you at all, perhaps this is not for you. But I do think you’re missing out on a lot of fun.
Price at the time of review: $6.99 US
Available: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Diesel
Author site: http://www.gunsandmagic.com/
GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12939363-gunwitch