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“You’d be surprised how much you need index fingers.”

the ragged companyWhat it’s about:

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.

My Thoughts

It’s going to be difficult to express how much I adored this book, but I’m going to try my best.

You guys.

This book.

Okay let me first say that yes, Rance is my friend, but I tried to keep how much I like his face separate from how much I like his book. I didn’t tell him I was reading it at first so he would be blissfully oblivious if His Ragged Company didn’t work for me and he would never have to know if I set it aside. But sure enough the book sucked me in and chewed me up and spit me out and the next thing I knew I was screaming at him in his DMs about how much I loved every brutal minute of it.

I started HRC on ebook and Rance drops you into some action and shouts “HAVE FUN” while riding off into the sunset. We meet Elias Faust dealing with some sheeeit (that’s now his narrator pronounces the word shit and I stg it’s the best thing about the audiobook) and it takes a minute for the reader to catch the rhythm of the mad canter that the narrative is pulling, but then just when the reader thinks they don’t know what’s what, the narrative takes a deep breath and gives us time to catch us.

At first, it’s not immediately clear that HRC is fantasy, as it takes place in Texas. (Is Blackpeak a real town? I don’t know. I don’t think so?) The first trials and tribulations faced by our trigger happy Marshal Faust seem mundane (albeit deliciously, unflinchingly violent) so maybe it’s just a Western, right?

Wrong.

Something dreadful and ominous in building in the background. Things are happening that begin to catch Faust’s attention. Folks are talking about a Magnate and strange things are happening. Some reviews criticize HRC for feeling like a series of connected short stories, but I think that’s the magic of Rance’s narrative. He draws us in with something familiar—a Western—and then slowly begins to fold in the unfamiliar, the fantasy. Sand zombies, all-powerful beings, a girl made of gold, the Well. He takes a very human and (dare I say) common story of a hard-as-nails lawman in a small town, and shakes that story down to its very foundation, reassembling it into something that transcends the sum total of the stories he told.

Rance’s characters are in turn delightful, heart-breaking, and enraging in all the right places. (Poor Curtis.) His violence hits as hard as Peggy Winters does. His book is not for the faint of heart. Something happened to Faust’s fingers and it made me CRINGE:

“You’d be surprised how much you need index fingers.”

But boy let me tell you I loved every horrible minute of it. AND THE SMACK TALK BETWEEN THE CHARACTERS truly it is the highlight of Rance’s style. I had to go digging around through my highlights and this one made me snort-laugh even though I don’t even remember the context:

“Out here you’re just a cold turd with bad aim and nuts the size of a jack-rabbit’s eyeball.”

I would absolutely recommend His Ragged Company to anyone who likes Western vibes, “OH SHIT” magic, violence that makes your fingers ache, slow-burn storytelling that packs a bloody punch, a painful introspection about the impact of killing, and a character that forces you to confront what love is (is it something beautiful? or something selfish?), and character work that shines in the grey parts of morality. The darkness of the violence is superbly balanced by the irreverent humor of all the characters, and the surprisingly loyalty between them.

And if you’re an audiobook listener like me, definitely scoop this one up on Audible. John Pirhalla lives and breathes all the vibes I crave from a Western setting. Sheeit, it’s a damn good time.

Check Out Some of Our Other Reviews

Review – A Drowned Kingdom by PL Stuart

Review – The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison

His Ragged Company

His Ragged Company

His Ragged Company

His Ragged Company

His Ragged Company

His Ragged Company

His Ragged Company

His Ragged Company

Krystle

Krystle

Krystle Matar has been writing for a long time, but things got serious when Tashué Blackwood walked into her life, an amber-eyed whirlwind. Legacy of the Brightwash is her Romantic Grimdark debut, and she expects to exist in this universe for a while. She has a lot of children and even more animals and one very excellent husband. She reads across many genres, from grimdark to romance to historical fiction to comtemporary Private Eye mysteries to Michael Pollan's brilliant investigative journalism about food and some illicit substances. For research.

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