A Rope of Thorns by Gemma Files

Why I Read It: To Feed The Need – my Gemma Files addiction.

Where I Got It: From the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: If your into sexy westerns, with some witch craftery thrown in, this is for you.

Narrator: Gordon MacKenzie

Publisher: Iambik Audio (2012)

Length: 12 hours 59 minutes

Series: Book 2 Hexslinger

I am surely addicted, and this new addiction has a name – Gemma Files. We had company over the weekend, company I adore and hadn’t seen in a year, and I still snuck in bits of this audio book. The author spins together imagery that is breath-taking in both beauty and terror. A Rope of Thorns picks right up where Book 1, A Book of Tongues, left off. Chess Pargeter and Ed Morrow have a whole posse of pissed-off folks after them and need to lay low. In a sleepy little town, they regain their strength, and also work out a few bits of their relationship. It’s hot and sweet at the same time. The night before a wedding, one of the local women, Yancy, demands that they take advantage of the celebration to slip out quietly. Things don’t quite as planned, and Yancy ends up leaving with Chess and Ed.

Meanwhile, Rook and his Aztec death Goddess wife Ixchel are still plotting and building their empire, summoning all hexes to them and taking worship in blood. As with everything in these books, nothing is black and white. The new Hex empire is a safe place for Hexes to raise families, something they couldn’t do in the open before. Speaking of family, Ixchel has a powerful brother, and it looks like these two are headed for a once-in-a-millenium confrontation. And I don’t think either cares about the term ‘collateral damage’.

Chess’s character really grew in this second book. At the end of Book 1, I was cheering him on, but in this book his personality is unfolding piece by piece, against his better judgement. Ed has to address the fact that he cares deeply for Chess, while at the same time being attracted to the opposite sex. Asher Rook, Chess’s former lover, did a very BAD THING in the first book (left out because it is a spoiler), and he struggles with loosing his friendship with Chess over it. Overall, these characters are not static; they hurt, grow, and morph into new people, forced to it by the extraordinary times they find themselves in. Throw in a few new characters, like kick-ass Yancy, and some allegiance-switching side characters, and you have a hoof-pounding, ricochet of a ride.

Our narrator, Gordon MacKenzie, did a fantastic job once again. Book 1 would be a challenge for any experienced and gifted narrator. Book 2, with further accents and more characters plus voices for dead deities and other monstrosities, is beyond what I have here-to-fore heard done well. Applause for Gordon MacKenzie please! He really brings this series to life with the effort he puts into the accents, regional and otherwise. He also had more female characters this time to play – which he did well. I can even picture him in a skirt when he does Yancy’s voice. In addition, there was some singing, and I love it when a narrator goes all out and actually sings the lyrics, instead of reciting them like poetry.

What I Liked: All of it – the dirt, blood, tears, betrayal, regret, love, trust, friendship; the sex was good too; Yancy’s character is a lot of fun; I love to hate the bad guys.

What I Disliked: This is really a minor thing, but I would liked to have heard more about Ixchel’s new empire and what she does in her off time (besides bedding Rook).

A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files

Why I Read It: It looked odd, and I was in an odd mood.

Where I Got It:  From the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To:  Folks who like Westerns, historical fantasies, desert Southwest, detailed love scenes.

Narrator: Gordon MacKenzie

Publisher: Iambik Audio (2010)

Length:  10 hours 58 minutes

Series: Book 1 in the Hexslinger series

Wow! It is awesome when one stumbles upon a new, unheard of author and falls in love with their work. This is the story of how it happened for me with Gemma Files. This nitty-gritty Western cum hex-slinging fantasy is spice-rubbed all over with some steaming hot homoerotic love scenes. The scenery is 1860s US, Southwest desert. Reverend Asher Rook and soldier Chess Pargeter start off in the army, in a small section about to engage in a loosing battle. Chess kills the commanding officer to prevent that loosing battle, but his actions force the small band of soldiers to become outlaws. Eventually Rook is caught and hung, at which point he has a vision of a evil Goddess with questionable dress code (skulls, snake skins, etc.). Rook comes out of that hanging with his Hex skills in full blossom. As he learns to use his newfound witchcraft powers, he ends up killing bystanders and leveling small towns (and not always by accident).

After a series of such events, Ed Morrow is sent by Mr. Pinkerton to infiltrate the Rook gang and provide intel back to the Pinkerton network. Ed is straight up guy, one of the good ones. He witnesses several acts that he is uncomfortable with and eventually becomes ensnared in this business with Rook’s evil ancient Aztec goddess, Ixchel. Where Rook is level headed most of the time, Chess is volcanic and vicious. These two lovers make an odd match, their strengths and weaknesses bouncing off one another. I found myself looking forward to the next encounter between these two – will Rook be able to rein in Chess? Will Chess get his way by lashing out? This book was intense through and through. Also, at the beginning of the book, I didn’t really care for Chess; By the end, I was cheering for him.

Gordon MacKenzie was an awesome narrator. He did this deep cowboy bur for Rook and this younger, whipcord voice for Chess. Ed got a level, comforting voice like this personality. MacKenzie also did a great job of pulling off all the foreign words and dialects, from Chinese to Native American to ancient Aztec.

What I Liked: The oddity of the whole thing; Ixchel is a personification of evil and done very well; none of the characters are black and white – they are all complicated; Gordon MacKenzie’s narration was excellent; the love scenes were detailed and hot; several strong female characters; for a Western, not everyone is white and straight.

What I Disliked:  The book leaps around a bit in time and this threw me off on the first leap for a chapter.