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A Rope of Thorns by Gemma Files
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A Rope of Thorns

by Gemma Files

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Hexslinger Series (2)

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(Re-posted from http://theturnedbrain.blogspot.com)

One of the most unique reading experiences for me in a long time was Gemma Files' "Book of Tongues." (I recommend reading that one before reading this review.) The book was not without its flaws, but I'd take flawed and interesting over perfect and safe any day of the week, believe me.

Not surprising then that I dived straight into its sequel, and book two of Hexslinger trilogy, "Rope of Thorns" as soon as it arrived at my doorstep. As always with a sequel I began with a small amount of trepidition. Would this book be as good as the first one? All too often it seems that the answer to that question turns out to be no. But not this time my friends. Not this time!

I loved "Rope of Thorns." It was everything "Book of Tongues" didn't quite manage to be, and all of the faults (all of them!) that I found with the Hexslinger Trilogy's first book had been addressed.

Despite having a lot less narrator time this go around, the character of Ed Morrow finally became real to me. There's a genuine goodness in Ed that's lacking from the other men in these books, but for all that he's just as capable as Chess or Rook as committing acts of great violence. It was a contrast I found fascinating.

Instead of Ed most of this book was told from the point of view of Mister Chess Partager himself. I didn't reread "Book of Tongues" before starting this one (way too eager!) but I'm fairly sure there wasn't any Chess point of views in it. He's an enigmatic figure in many ways, and when I realised I was seeing things through his eyes I was concerned that it would "ruin" the mystery of him. Not so! If anything the greater insight into the workings of Chess's, uh, shall we say unique? mind only made him more interesting to me. And more sympathetic, by a mile!

Ah, poor Chess. Rook's monstrous betrayal has changed him, that's for sure. And you have to feel for the guy. There's one scene where he has to stay in disguise while a song is sung about how every bad thing Rook ever did is pretty much all Chess' fault, and I don't remember the last time I felt so keenly for a character. I kept oscilating between wanting Chess and Rook to somehow work things out, and and wanting Chess to just blow Rook's smug head clean off. Or maybe some combination of both?

We have some new characters this time around, the most noteworthy of this being Experiance "Yancy" Kloves, who neatly takes care of complaints that these books lack women. Yancy is a capable, practical young woman, but she manages to be so while staying true to the time period, in my opinion. There was a dry humour to her point of view that really appealed to me, and I enjoyed watching Chess try and figure out exactly what to do with her.

Personally my biggest issue with "Book of Tongues" was that the plot tended to jump around a bit haphazardly. But in "Rope of Thorns" things are pretty much linear. There's an interlude set in Rook's newly founded Hex city (very interesting. It was satisfying watching him realise the enormity of his mistakes, and I'll be very interested to see how things in Hex City play out in the next book) but other than that we stick with Chess and his entourage, without even any flashbacks.

Really "Rope of Thorns" is everything you hope for in a sequel, but so rarely get. The plot is advanced, a greater understanding of characters is granted, new and interesting characters are introduced. Files' prose remains a delight to read, the cadence of her sentences captures the wild west setting perfectly, and the images she paints are a fascinating mix of frontier practicality and magic bred surrealism.

Role on "Tree of Bones." ( )
  MeganDawn | Jan 18, 2016 |
Book Info: Genre: Weird Western/Supernatural Horror/Steampunk
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of Weird West, horror, those interested in Meso-American religious practices
Trigger Warnings for Book 2: killing, murder, discussion of mass suicides, human sacrifice , m/m sex, obscenity, profanity, blasphemy, self-injury, non PC language
Animal Injuries: several horses are killed during a melee

My Thoughts on Book 2: Chess Pargeter has quite a mouth on him. I would love to share some of the creative swearing, but alas, Amazon doesn't like us to use that sort of language. One of the things I like best about these books is the character development. The author creates characters that you love, or love to hate, with depth and quirks. A few of my favorites from this book include Three-Finger Hank and Yiska, as well as Yancey.

This book is set just after the Civil war, so in order to maintain realism, there is language used that many people might find offensive in a modern context. However, one needs to realize that this is how people spoke then, and it is not meant in a pejorative way.

I'm fascinated by the MesoAmerican mythology being brought to life here. The descriptions of things are so beautiful, but then the actual thing being described is horrible. It was not a kind, gentle society, that much is sure, and the gods are some of the most bloodthirsty the world around.

The author describes this as black magic gay porn horse opera. This is fairly accurate, although to be fair there is much less sex in this second book than was in the first. If you enjoy that sort of story, and/or are interested in MesoAmerican culture, be sure to check this series out.

Synopsis: You must let blood to get blood. Arizona, 1867. As consort to resurrected Mayan goddess Ixchel, hexslinger "Reverend" Asher Rook* has founded "Hex City"—the first place in all of human history where magicians can live and work together safely. But this tenuous peace is is threatened by the approach of Rook's former lover, Chess Pargeter, bent on revenge over Rook's betrayal, as he kills his way toward the very same spot, dragging Pinkerton agent-turned-outlaw Ed Morrow along with him. Because Chess, sacrificed in Ixchel's name, has become far more than just a hex: his very presence has torn a crack in the world, remaking everything around him. And as the cycle of Chess's power approaches its climax, Chess, Morrow, and a young spiritualist named Yancey Colder—caught up in Chess's vendetta—will all have to shed yet more blood as they face down his mysterious patron demon, known only as the Enemy... along with every other enemy Chess has already made along the way. ( )
  Katyas | Dec 14, 2013 |
AMAZING. Coherent review later. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Mar 30, 2013 |
*audio review only. see here for book review.*

Another excellent reading from Gordon MacKenzie, who's given a larger cast to voice this time. I especially love Yancy's clipped speech and his New Yorker Hank Fennig (and knowing Files' proclivities I could only grin and think Gangs of New York).

Also he sings. HE SINGS.

I cannot wait for A Tree Of Bones to come out on audio next so I can have the set. ( )
  keyboardcouch | Mar 28, 2013 |
A Rope of Thorns is book two in a trilogy, so if you don't want any spoilers, I suggest you stop reading and go devour A Book of Tongues first.

Book two has Reverend Rook and his Lady Ixchel constructing "Hex City," built on blood and carnage, but also the only place where hexes can live in peace with one another. Meanwhile, Chess, the red-headed little man of grit and violence, barely in control of his new abilities, seeks his revenge against his former lover, Rook, while avoiding the attacks of angry hexes, Pinkerton agents, and other darker creatures, with Ed Morrow along for the ride.

As the middle book in the trilogy, A Rope of Thorns widens the the scope of the story, interweaving new characters and plotlines into Gemma Files' vision of a blood soaked west.

As always, violence follows Chess wherever he goes, as well as a strange new red weed that is spreading through the desert in the wake of his footsteps. But Chess has changed. He still laughs at the world and it's brutal misery, but his laughter is more bitter and without glee. The unfolding of Chess's character that began in the first book, continues in the second. His layers are stripped away and the profoundly human that lays at his core is unveiled. I'd be madly in love with him, if it weren't for the fact that he is fictional, gay, and unlikely to take my affection kindly.

The addition of Yancey Colder into the story is wonderfully refreshing. She's a spiritualist with her own unique power and is drawn into Chess's circle of violence. She's a strong female character, one who knows how to act quickly and smartly in the face of threat, and who manages not to be crushed under the weight of disaster that transpires.

Morrow, too. I find I'm even more fond of him in this book, because for all that happens, he stays loyal and true to his friend, Chess. He's a good brave man, who knows that justice isn't always what's written down in legislature books.

Most every one is given a wider breadth in this one, though the Gods that are playing board games with the world remain somewhat one-dimensional. Though, as they are far from human, I suppose that's to be expected.

Like the first book, there's plenty of sex and gore in gripping, graphic detail, and the story moves along at a fast pace. I'm looking forward to reading the final book, A Tree of Bones. Based on the ending of book two, I can't even imagine the carnage that's going to take place then. ( )
1 vote andreablythe | Feb 29, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gemma Filesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mackenzie, GordonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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You must let blood to get blood. New Mexico, 1867. As consort to resurrected Mayan goddess Ixchel, hexslinger "Reverend" Asher Rook has founded "Hex City," the first place in all of human history where magicians can live and work together safely. But this tenuous peace is threatened by the approach of Rook's former lover, Chess Pargeter, bent on revenge over Rook's betrayal, as he kills his way toward the very same spot, dragging Pinkerton agent-turned-outlaw Ed Morrow along with him. Because Chess, sacrificed in Ixchel's name, has become far more than just a hex: his very presence has torn a crack in the world, remaking everything around him. And as the cycle of Chess's power approaches its climax, Chess, Morrow, and a young spiritualist named Yancey Colder-caught up in Chess's vendetta-will all have to shed yet more blood as they face down his mysterious patron demon, known only as the Enemy, along with every other enemy Chess has already made along the way.… (more)

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