Fantasy Western, anyone?
IT’S been a while since I’ve come across a story set in a fantasy equivalent of the Wild West. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I actually read a book with this background, although the last Western-like fantasy movie I watched was probably Oz: The Great And Powerful with James Franco last year.
The blurb at the back of this book gives no indication of the book’s setting. But that didn’t bug me. What did bug me was the fact that it seemed to indicate that modern-day girl Chloe is the protagonist of this story, when she isn’t. Sue me, but I like my blurbs to be accurate.
Anyway, the main protagonists of The Arrivals are actually siblings Jack and Kitty Reed, who, coincidentally, do originate from America’s Wild West period (circa the late 1800s). They were the first ones to be brought over from Earth to the other dimension known as the Wasteland.
No one knows why they were transported from their homes to this fantasy equivalent of cowboy frontierland, nor how it was done.All the Arrivals know is that they don’t age in the Wasteland, and when they die there, it might or might not be permanent. In addition, Kitty, out of all of them, has the ability to perform spells – a talent she prefers to hide as she feels it sets her too much apart from the others.
Over the years since the Reeds’ arrival, others have appeared one by one in the Wasteland, usually after the permanent death of one of the other Arrivals. They come from a range of times, with the latest being Chloe from 2013.
And all of them have killed at least one person in their lives on Earth.Surprisingly, they also all come from the United States.
In the 26 years they have been in the Wasteland, the Reeds have formed a loose team of sorts with the other Arrivals, providing protective and negotiating services to the governor of the Wasteland and its wealthy private citizens, but generally working for the good of the land.
This is unlike their nemesis, the mysterious Ajani, who is exploiting the land for the sake of his profits. In addition, Ajani tries to get as many new Arrivals into his employment as possible; a task made easier by the fact that none of the Arrivals working for him have ever died permanently. The death of one of their team members, Mary, during what is supposed to be a peaceful negotiation with a group of magic-wielding monks, trigge rs a series of events that eventually leads the Reeds to discover who Ajani really is, and the reason the Arrivals have been plucked from their times and thrown into the Wasteland.
While Melissa Marr is generally regarded as a young adult fiction author, I feel that this book is quite adult in its tone. There’s sex, violence, blood-drinking (courtesy of an important supporting character, who is a bloedzuiger – Marr’s different take on a vampire), a suave but crazy villain, and even a little commentary on how greed, aka development, destroys the land. The fantasy concept is quite interesting and the characters are well-thought out.
The plot moves along quite well, although there was a tad too much exposition at various points when she describes the characters’ thought processes.
Overall, it’s quite an enjoyable read for what it is, but nothing that will make me want to reread it.