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Nunslinger by Stark Holborn


My Review

The main protagonist is a memorable and likeable character, sister Thomas Josephine formally of St. Louis, Missouri, she finds herself on a road with a deserter, Abraham C Muir, they are both put through perils of the wild west, with promises made, lives to save and loose, they are on a journey that ultimately will partake many unholy things.
The prose style nicely keeps you reading on and brings the scene to life, you feel the environment and the moment, good dialogue, and the sentences the right economy.
A story that may take you back to tales like True Grit by Charles Portis.
This is a First person narrative of one Sister Josephine, she takes you through her journey and she holds close to her heart a matter that she tries till the end of the tale to uphold, in her own words: ‘No man’s soul is beyond salvation, and I intend to fight the devil for yours.’


“Muir cursed and dropped back down beside me. We had made good time the previous day. Muir gauged that we might be able to make it into the mountains and across the state line to California before dark, if we hurried.The season was turning against us, each morning colder than the last; we had to cross the passes before the first snows, or be stranded until spring.
Scrambling to my feet, I peered over the rock to see what had caused Abe’s alarm. We were perched on a ledge, overlooking a wooded valley. One end was dominated by the solid rock wall of the Sierras, jutting toward the sky in ever-higher peaks, our gateway to the west. At the other end, sheltered behind a mound of scree, was a camp. There was great activity across the valley floor.The earth had been torn up into a wide ditch twenty paces wide, men swarming in lines along its length. Now they were cutting into the mountainside with hand and haft, iron and fist. From above, it appeared as though some colossal worm was eating a course of destruction through the rock.”

“The horse’s hooves beat rhythmically against the ground, muscles bunching and releasing as we cantered headlong into the desert. Pale dust rose and flew about us.The sun was already high and burned my eyes, yet I persevered; I kept my head low over the horse’s mane, the scent of inhuman earth and living animal filling my senses.
The horse ran itself out and began to slow. I believe the beast felt the same release I did, fleeing into the landscape, away from walls and the noise of humans. Small puffs of dirt sprang underfoot as we shifted and stopped.
I turned back: a smudge on the horizon was all that suggested a village lay behind us.The desert was silent, blessedly silent.The horse went to nose hopefully at some withered scrub. I dismounted and sat down upon the baked earth and rock. Above me the sky spread out, blue in the heat. Tiny flecks of black wheeled: buzzards, on their daily scout for flesh.
In the saddlebag was an end of bread, wrapped in cloth, and the bible. I chewed dutifully on the food for as long as seemed necessary and took up the book. It had seen much use, its leather cover wrinkled and faded by the sun, the thin paper of its pages edged by the grease of many fingers. It was written in Spanish, and would have been of little use, had I not known Latin. As it was, I struggled by.”

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 09 December 2014