When I met Brett Savory, co-publisher of ChiZine Publications, at Odyssey 2010, he described Gemma Files' A Book of Tongues as, "if Quentin Tarantino directed Brokeback Mountain."
That's not fair. Tarantino never created anything as original as this.
The Civil War has ended and in the Wild West a band of ex-Confederates resort to outlawry. A common enough theme both on the page and in real life, but this isn't your typical Wild West. Hexslingers have powerful magical forces at their beck and call, yet cannot unite forces because of their vampiric influence on one another. Hexslingers are natural enemies, which causes problems for our band of outlaws because their leader, Reverend Asher Rook, is a hexslinger wanted both by the law and by other hexslingers. The law, of course, is the lesser danger.
The story revolves around the troubled relationship between Rook and his gay lover Chess Pargeter, who will make your angstiest high school obsession look well adjusted by comparison. Throw in some bloodthirsty Aztec gods and you have a lot of trouble brewing.
Gemma Files has already made a name for herself with her short horror fiction, winning the International Horror Guild award for Best Short Fiction in 1999. She has two collections of stories out by Prime Books. This is her first novel and it shows she can maintain her gory lyricism through a book-length narrative. This is not a book for the fainthearted, with raunchy sex and almost continuous bloodletting, but the quality of writing is high throughout. The only off note was the occasional historical inaccuracy detectable only by obsessive students of the Civil War such as myself, and even I didn't care much. This is history turned on its head with its chest ripped open and its heart offered to the gods. I look forward to the sequel.