I rarely get a chance to read straight westerns, mostly because I haven’t actually been in touch with a lot of authors who write westerns. Now, that being said, I have a special fondness for all things space opera (read, western with sci-fi) or even westerns with fantasy elements (I don’t know if there’s a specific genre name for this) and any chance to delve into a series with such things is really quite a treat. Reading R.S. Penney’s Desa Kincaid series was no exception. This review is for the second in the series, though I read both books and shall try to provide some context.
1. Thoughts on the plot
The second book in the series, Bullets and Bones starts where the first left off. For context, our hero Desa has just been through the desert and all sorts of uncomfortable and dangerous situations in order to track down her nemesis, a villain who uses Field Binding (sort of like Jedi powers) to hurt people and bring some unknown force into the world. After this, Desa and her friends were transported by this unknown force back to her home of Aladar. And things there are…complicated. Now, with a stronger enemy to face, a past to reconcile, and politics to battle, Desa’s trials are far from over.
I think this second book did a really good job of continuing the story from the first book, while also providing more in the way of world building, specifically regarding Desa’s past. We learn a good deal more about where she came from and those added elements make things much more difficult for the characters. Then, in the second half of the book, when they set off to go defeat their enemy, things pick up a bit in pace. This could have been done badly, to the point where the pace shift gives you a bit of whiplash, but I think that this particular change was perfect for teh story and the situation. Though, the travel was a bit hard to follow, but that’s because I am geographically challenged.
2. Thoughts on the characters
Any sequel, featuring the same cast of characters, is meant to take those familiar faces and give them more struggles, highlight their character even more, and provide more insight into their lives. In short, the character development in any sequel should be a continuation and expansion of what we learned in the first book. And this book definitely did that.
The first book was really quite good in that I liked the characters while also acknowledging their flaws. I could see the way that they were growing and I had fun reading them. Bullets and Bones, though, really let me see the characters for what they were. Desa’s past added a whole element of answers to questions that I didn’t know I had. Learning about Miri and Marcus and their lives in Aladar was perfect for both plot and character. And that plot twist at the end…just lovely.
3. Favourite part
Probably the technical/mystical exploration of Field Binding. There seems to be a good portion of this art which is grounded in science, and some which is not. I can’t really explain it more than that, but I loved seing something that looked slightly familiar transplanted into a new, action-oriented and fascinating environment.
Some of the action scenes—and there were quite a few—did overwhelm the plot just a touch. They were important, yes, but they seemed almost scripted rather than flowing from the natural progression of the plot. While I enjoyed the action scenes quite a lot, I think they didn’t need to be quite so over-the-top dramatic. Still, that’s more of a personal preference than anything.
Overall, I would say that this second instalment in the Desa Kincaid series is a gripping adventure that combines some of my favourite elements of both sci-fi, and westerns: a defining sense of right and wrong, a technological element that shapes the world, and characters that cause a good deal of trouble. Very good.