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The Shotgun Arcana    by R. S. Belcher order for
Shotgun Arcana
by R. S. Belcher
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Shotgun Arcana continues R. S. Belcher's engrossing Western fantasy/horror series that began with The Six-Gun Tarot in 1869 Golgotha, Nevada. It's a place whose citizens have become accustomed to eruptions of supernatural horror and, of course, another such is in store for them in this episode.

Fortunately, Golgotha has its guardians who fight hard when needed. Exiled angel Biqa has lost his trust and his faith, but holds to the task assigned to him. Many have tried to kill sheriff Jon Highfather, but it's not yet his time to die. He has two deputies - Indian, half-coyote Mutt and young Jim Negrey, custodian of an ancient jade eye given to his father by a Chinaman.

Maude hides her secret heritage as a Daughter of Lilith but has begun to train her daughter, Constance, who has true visions of what's ahead. Mayor Harry Pratt, who hides his homosexuality from his constituents, is last of a line of guardians of potent Mormon relics. And horse doctor/taxidermist Clay continues a Frankenstein project.

Along with the growing horror - ignited by the widespread release of teeth from an ancient skull that a fallen angel failed to guard - romance is in the air for some inhabitants of Golgotha. Storekeeper Auggie courts his dead wife's best friend Gillian, while Maude and Mutt hide their attraction and Clay works hard to bring his to fruition.

The good guys gain helpful new allies this time around too. Kate Warne, a female Pinkerton agent, gets along well with Jon Highfather. Nephilim Emily Bright arrives in town in search of her father. Rowan is a pirate queen with an agenda all her own. And Constance plays an active role. Will they be able to save the world from ending in bestial violence?

The Shotgun Arcana is another gripping adventure with colorful characters and philosophical depth (in debates on free will and God's seeming inaction against evil). And after the worst is over, shadows still lurk in Golgotha. Belcher has sown seeds in this episode destined to flower into further awful events. Though I normally avoid horror, I can't wait.

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