Blog Tour (Book Review) – His Ragged Company (Testimonies of Elias Faust) – Rance D. Denton


Late because trains apparently hate me, and yesterday was a fiasco in terms of travel and today the train wifi decided to eat the entire post apart from the title and header. However, despite all that, I am delighted to be joining the Escapists Books blog tour for His Ragged Company by Rance D. Denton.

Please do check out the rest of the tour stops.

Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.

Book Summary:

A pissed-off warlock with a taste for revenge.

An army of sand-golems with fistfuls of magic.

A wishing well with a mind of its own.

No wonder Blackpeak, Texas never got its spot on the map.

Town marshal Elias Faust thinks that he can make any problem go away if he throws enough lead at it. The living’s easy for a lawman. Bloody, but easy – that is, until Magnate Gregdon arrives with his undead syndicate to tear the town of Blackpeak, Texas apart.

When a shootout with a pair of outlaws goes sideways, Elias Faust accidentally draws the Magnate’s attention. As if dealing with arcane sorcery, reanimated corpses, and the Magnate’s personal vendetta aren’t enough, Faust finds himself at the center of a power-struggle for Blackpeak’s eldritch secrets.

Suddenly, staying alive just got a lot more complicated.

Hunted by a cadre of sandshades and hounded by sinister spellcraft, Elias Faust may be the only bag of skin defiant enough to keep Blackpeak from being destroyed. To outlast the Magnate’s disciples, he’ll need to shoot straighter, run faster, and live longer…even if it means sacrificing a part of himself to do just that.

The Review:

His Ragged Company was a book that had been on my horizon for a while, because I adore weird west and I am always looking for more books in this wonderful subgenre. So, I leapt at the chance to jump on the tour for this one, and for the most part I am glad that I did, because this is one of those books that grabs hold of you – in this case probably around the throat, with sharp pointy claws and teeth and pulls you along for the ride. Even in the slower build up at the beginning, this was a book that I was finding difficult to put down because I was just having so much damn fun reading it.

I will say that the fun for me started after the prologue. Usually, I fall on the side of enjoying prologues – but while this one certainly gets bonus points for dropping us into the chaos, and giving us a very vivid glance of our man the Marshal, it was too chaotic. Or maybe, not too chaotic (I am a chaos gremlin, and I don’t think I it’s possible for something to be too chaotic), but too chaotic too early maybe. We didn’t have any point of reference for what was happening, the fantastical elements that were present weren’t something that would really be understood until later in the book. But I also didn’t feel like anything was gained from that prologue. I would have been just as pulled into the narrative and the rest of the action, if it had started with the rest of the book, and I didn’t feel – even going back for a reread after finishing the book – that I gleaned anything important from it.

That’s the first of two grumbles I had with this book. However, while the prologue fell flat for me, as I said this book hooked me, and that starts right from the first ‘now’ section that followed that prologue. This is a rolling boulder of narrative, as after that ‘now’ which indicates that something very bad is afoot, we find ourselves in what feels like that quintessential western. We meet our main character – Elias Faust – who in some ways in the very typical hard-ass, not black and white lawman in a small town, tough as nails (for the most part), rough around the edges (plenty of cussing, drinking and smoking), but softened around the edges by a concept of right and wrong and rules (which might not necessarily mesh up with other people’s, but provide a moral compass in a world that tilts more and more into the shadow). We get the slow build-up as Denton pulls until Faust’s world, from the trouble-makers, to the bloodshed and gunfights that we all think of, to the lives of those in the small town and those just passing through.

We get to meet more of the colourful cast of characters who call Blackpeak home, and Denton does some fantastic character work here and honestly, I would love to visit the town (not sure of my chances of surviving mind you) just to meet them because they were as large as life, and really brought the world to life. I really liked that there were layers on layers, both to the town itself, and to the people – a whole small ecosystem, with Faust in the middle, but where each person was an important nut and bolt for the way things ran. Cicero was a favourite, and I feel like Denton really captured the partnership with Faust and it’s development brilliantly, and made an interesting twist on that criminal (and often conman) turned ally/deputy, because there was more to Cicero than all of those, and he was more a robin hood than a true criminal (although I’m sure the justice system might not agree there). I also really liked how Eliza was written, and how Denton handled her anger and grief, and the knock on effect that had on other aspects of her life. Faust was loud (and often the one in the thick of it), but he was very much part of an ensemble group.

The worldbuilding started here with this small town and the people who filled the world, but like a rolling boulder gathering moss, as the narrative really got rolling, we got to see the world expanding. Not so much in scope, because as is often the nature of a wild west story it’s very much rooted in the locale, but in depth…and in weirdness. As events that are rooted in that slower start, begin to spiral outwards (almost like actions have consequences, and there are some people and beings you really don’t want to get the attention of), we get to see the fantastical elements come out to play, from Sandshades, to the sharing of memories, and a girl of gold and otherworldly beings. There were a few places where I wanted and possibly needed a bit more explanation for what was going on with these elements, or to at least have learned about them earlier, but Denton does a great job of weaving these elements into the story without losing that wild west feeling, or what he had built up in the earlier book. Instead, he has you unable to put down the book, as along with Elias you want to know more and see what is going to happen.

“You’ll get it back soon enough. You feel it, don’t you? Bone deep. That’s the charm. The – the spell. Minute its invisible hands start squeezing your brain, they change how it works. Not in big ways, but subtle-like. You like it. You want it.

With these weird elements also comes the Magnate – a character who slithers into the centre of the story as though he was always the start of the show, and in so many ways he was. What, had been merely a name at the beginning, builds up into so much, and Denton presents us with a villain who is devious and cruel. Who takes the violence of the wild west, and turns the dial up to one hundred, and relishes in it. He should be a character who is reviled, and yet Denton manages to establish the Magnate’s motivations and ultimate aim and gives us a character who is completely and utterly compelling in his own way.

Now, we come at last, to the end of things and the second thing that didn’t work for me with His Ragged Company and it cannot be overstated that this is a ME issue and not a problem with the book, and that is the humour. On the one hand, I could appreciate the banter between the characters, the sarcasm and jibes that are like the steam being let out a boiling pot; and I could understand why the humour was perhaps needed as this book gets real dark and violent in parts, and without that humuorous edge I could see how it could become too much for some people. Now, firstly I have no problem with how bloody and dark we get in this book, Denton takes the kid gloves off and throws them beneath a charging bronco, and the visceral descriptions are something else (brilliant…brilliant is what they are), but that’s me. And it meant that for me, the humour took tension away when I didn’t want it taken away, and there were a few places where it just jolted me out of what was happening, and it was certainly my least favourite aspect of the book – but I can absolutely see why it is needed and why people will enjoy it.

Beyond those grumbles, I just had so much fun with this book. Denton kept a hand on the rudder at all times, so even when the pace picked up and it felt as though the narrative might lose itself with so much chaos happening all around, it all came together. And I love, that the threads and connections built in the quieter, less weird beginning were woven throughout. Nothing happened without consequence. A fast-paced read, that left little time for getting lost on the trail. Denton also has a skilled hand with dialogue and prose alike, capturing the accent without overdoing it, and managing to paint vivid, visceral images of the events unfolding.

I wasn’t the ideal reader for this one, just because humour/comedy and me are like oil and water for the most part and yet I still had a hell of time. His Ragged Company but plenty of grit and dark into the weird west, and I will definitely be checking out the rest of the series when it comes on trundling down the line. Definitely one to pick up if you love weird west, especially when it comes with a large dash of blood and iron and darkness, and for anyone who just wants a good old romp in the wild west with a main character who isn’t good, or bad, but has a core of principles (and a mouth that sometimes doesn’t agree with any of those principles…)

Husband. Son. Cat-dad. Dog-dad. Self-professed synthwave addict. Podcaster. Moonlighting actor. Historical reenactor. Martial artist. Rance’s poetry, prose, academic publications, and journalism can be found littering the Internet like time-bombs. When he isn’t writing, he is one-half of the podcast duo The Quarantine Book Club.

Rance lives in Baltimore, MD with his lovely partner and mountains of debt.

Social Media:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US


If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.


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