The blog will be getting back into full swing at the start of February. I’ve been using this month to try and build up a bit of a buffer with posts, and just to rest and reclaim some activities that had fallen to the wayside in the last year or so.
However, today I am delighted to be reviewing ‘Where Blood Runs Gold’ by A.C. Cross which turned out to be an incredibly fun and compelling read.
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
Sheriff Errol Thorpe’s life is chaotic, brutal, and above all, solitary. After an unimaginable loss years ago, all he feels is the compulsion to seek vengeance. But when a vulnerable family arrives in town, facing an ugly future, he is pulled headfirst into a web of violence, secrets, and things he never imagined. In search of truth and answers, Thorpe finds himself battling deadly flesh-eating Dust, acidic golden blood, and the political designs of powerful people – all the while learning how to be a person again. When Dust rises in San Dios, people hide indoors. When Sheriff Thorpe arrives, people run.
I grew up watching Westerns, and it’s something that I’ve never stopped loving. So, the idea of a Western crossed with Eldritch horrors immediately caught my attention, and Where Blood Runs Gold delivered in spades.
The sheer readability of this one is off the charts. Every time I was like I should stop for the night, I immediately talked myself into reading just a bit more, which turned into another chapter or three. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about picking it back up to find out what was going to happen next, and it was the only the fact that I had to work that stopped me devouring this in one sitting – and I already want to read it again.
‘This is the Judge.’
One of the reasons Where Blood Runs Gold is so compelling is undoubtedly the characters. Sherrif Errol Thorpe was an absolutely fantastic lead, although he won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, because to be honest, he’s a bit of an ass. Hard as nails, ruthless and with one foot on either side of the law in most cases despite the badge he wears, and yet at the same time he has a heart even if he isn’t the best at showing it in a way that doesn’t end up with gunfire and arguments. He also has a moral compass that’s firmly set to grey, with the ends justifying the means if it’s what he sees as right. It’s always been one of the things that I’ve liked about Westerns, are the characters that tread that boundary of grey. That isn’t to say I didn’t want to smack him upside the head more than once. But, I would also say that he was the character that grew the most throughout the book, without losing all those elements that made him who he was, but softening the edges – or maybe it would be more accurate to say he was pulverised into softening by everything that happened.
“Gentlemen, I hate to break up this lover’s spat,” Anna broke in, “but I believe there is something worth noticing, regarding the church. Specifically, it’s not burning down.”
The other characters that stood out for me were Captain Josiah Daniels, who is both friend and opponent depending on the circumstance. He’s an example of the law as it should be, in contrast to Thorpe. However, I love the give and take between them, the way that they find common ground in their own way between the arguments and chaos. Anna was a definite favourite, feisty yet hardened, she was probably the character who caught me most by surprise by the impact that she had on both me the reader but also Thorpe. Greta was another favourite, and I liked that amongst everything that happened to her and around her, she was very much a teenager with her attitude and behaviour – and her sass had me grinning at times.
The setting and worldbuilding were brilliant, taking the familiar features of the Western and transforming them into something different. Something weird and compelling. You have corruption, the law was the outlaw, gunfights and holdups, and everything that kept me glued to the television screen as a kid. Then you have Dust, which kills and corrupts and drives everyone with an ounce of sense and self-preservation to hide inside and ride out the storm. You have cults in the desert, worshipping monstrous beings – and that was one of my favourite incidents that Thorpe found himself embroiled in, and had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up from the moment it started. Also, just the imagery and idea of Sin that Cross ran with was fantastic. Also, the way the Eldritch element was woven throughout the entire story and world were fantastic, we’d find one thread, and connect one dot, only to be shown another, and I loved how everything felt connected and how it all came together at the end.
Another element that worked really well was the use of flashbacks through Thorpe telling about his exploits -not only did it expand the world considerably, and also give more of a chance to demonstrate the variety and chaos of life in this Wild West, but again it showed how all the threads came together across time. Seriously, how Cross brings all the elements together is fantastic. It also leads to my one and only grumble about this book, and that is that there were a couple of places where the transition felt a little too contrived and brought me briefly out of the book – some of that was down to the pacing because this is a fast-paced book and you can feel it building to the crescendo (hence not being able to put it down) and another transition might have slowed things too much. A difficult balance to maintain, and it is a very minor issue because I was immediately drawn back into the story by the next page and allowed the story to flow towards the conclusion.
Where Blood Runs Gold is a fantastic example of what Weird West can be, and I absolutely loved the blend of the grittiness and familiarity of a Western with the chill-inducing Eldritch aspect. A fast-paced, compelling read with a memorable main character. Also not sure I am ever going to look at Dust the same way again. A great read for anyone looking for something a little strange and different, and who loves Wild and Weird West.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.