An Easy Death (Gunnie Rose #1) by Charlaine Harris

easy deathI had such a good time with An Easy Death – it’s one of those books that is, well, frankly, easy.  Easy to read, easy to understand, easy to get along with and it has a great central character that I’ve already become attached to and can’t wait to read more from.

An Easy Death brings to us an alternative post apocalyptic America with a Wild West feel, it has magic, shootouts and a hint of romance.  The pacing is terrific and there is literally never a dull moment.

The story practically leaps out of the stalls as we meet Lizbeth Rose – she’s preparing for a job with her crew.  They’re all guns for hire and they’re about to escort a family of farmers across open and dangerous territory.  Unfortunately things go very badly and we have a fairly quick induction into Lizbeth’s lifestyle which can be at best dangerous and at worst brutally murderous.  Harris wastes no time in demonstrating just how cutthroat the place is and also in setting her stall out in terms of the main MC.  Lizbeth is no pushover that much is for sure – she has no qualms about shooting to kill and will make a quick judgement call in order to give herself better odds.  She’s a gunnie after all and in such a lawless world quick thinking is often rewarded by a slightly longer life.

So, returning from her job, crewless now and in need of rest, Lizbeth is also painfully aware that she needs to find more work but it seems her fears are groundless, her reputation precedes her and she finds herself sought out by a pair of Russian Wizards seeking help in finding someone.  With no better offers on the table she takes the job although she doesn’t really trust either of her new employers.  And thus begins Lizbeth’s trail across Texoma searching for another wizard whilst trying to keep herself and her charges alive against a barrage of constant threat.

To be honest the plot isn’t the main strength of the story although that’s not really intended to be a criticism.  Lizbeth was the main focus for me.  Finding out more about her, becoming familiar with who she is, what motivates her, her thoughts and feelings but more than that finding a character at the start of a series that I feel I’m going to really be able to get on board with.  Like I said, Lizbeth makes some hard decisions but they’re in the line of her job.  She will kill in the line of duty but she doesn’t fire off her gun willy nilly or kill without reason.

Having read Charlaine Harris before she has this great ability to write strong female leads and Lizbeth is no exception.  She could take the easy route, she could make her mother happy by getting an easy job with no danger attached, she could flee at the first sniff of danger but she does none of these things and she definitely isn’t a damsel in distress waiting to be saved.  Hurray!  The other thing that I like about Harris is that, without going overboard or getting into too much boring detail, she does pay attention to the everyday needs of a person.  Hunger, searches for water, sleeping out in the open, care and attention to survival – they’re all dealt with naturally during the course of the storytelling and for me they bring something extra to the story and stop me from niggling.  It would be easy to just have all these things easily dealt with but instead they’re part and parcel of the struggles.

In terms of the world building An Easy Death gets the ball rolling really well.  A fractured America with a wild west feel – and I don’t know why but I’m loving anything with a wild west feel at the moment – fantasy in the form of Russian wizards, and I confess that reading about an America where the Russians have claimed huge swathes of land as art of their empire was a huge surprise, as was the inclusion of Rasputin and the Grigori wizards.  I would say that the magical elements are not overplayed – although that may change in future versions.  I would say that magic isn’t happily accepted by most people in this alternate world and so it’s users tend to keep a low profile and often try to pass off their own use of magic as something more mundane to avoid suspicion.

All in all I really enjoyed An Easy Death.  It’s not afraid to be gritty and the opening sequences are a little bloody and contain potential triggers for some readers in terms of rape scenes.  However, these scenes are not gratuitous, they’re bleak but honest statements of what’s taking place and serve to give readers a clear understanding of the place and it’s lawlessness.  Don’t be put off though, the overall feeling that I came away with was an easy and entertaining read, a great opening shot that leaves plenty to explore in future novels that I’m really looking forward to picking up.

I bought the audio version of An Easy Death.  The above opinions are my own.