The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow (The Crystal Calamity #1) by Rachel Aaron #TLSOMGC

Today I’m really excited to be taking part in the book tour organised by Fantasy Book Critic for the first in Rachel Aaron’s Crystal Calamity series – The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow.  Details of the other bloggers taking part and other information that you might find useful are outlined below.  For now, let’s get to the book review.

TheLast Stand

This is my first book by Rachel Aaron – I know, *hangs head in shame*, but, it certainly won’t be my last in fact I’ll be queuing up excitedly for the next instalment in this series. I’m definitely going through one of those phases at the moment where certain types of books just really appeal and anything to do with the Wild Wild West fits into that category so as soon as I was offered a place on this tour, and was told ‘Deadwood meets the Lord of the Rings’ well, before I could say ‘gosh a’mighty’ I’d done gone and signed up and struck lucky. Get me a sarsaparilla!

The Last Stand of Mary Good Crowe is an alternate history that takes us to Medicine Rock, Montana.  Here, instead of a gold rush, crystals have been discovered.  Crystals with miraculous qualities, they can enhance vision, cure diseases, improve the strength and versatility of weapons and give those not afraid to drink the powdered version (with all it’s terrible side effects) the ability to converse with the dead.  As you may imagine crystals have become the most expensive commodity known to man and everyone wants a piece of the action.  Consequently miners and crystal hunters have descended like locusts upon the town, the place is a hotbed of crime and a cavalry presence at the mines is hard pressed to keep order.  Frontier towns were harsh places to live and claim jumping and back stabbing was rife.  On top of this the cavalry were tasked with delivering taxes in the form of crystal and trying to avoid ambushes.  In this respect the book brings in certain characters that readers will undoubtedly recognise but I won’t name drop here.

In terms of the plot.  Well, to put it in a nutshell, one of the wealthiest mine owners in the town has died, rumour had it that he struck ‘big’ before passing and now everyone wants a piece of the action.  The largest contender is the owner of a bawdy house and bar where gunslingers are hired to carry out their own justice on unruly customers.  Unbeknownst to all the wannabes trying to get a slice of this crystal claim, the mine owner left a will bequeathing everything to his niece.  Her arrival certainly shakes things up and her determination to go into the mines and claim the crystal is a deadly venture that she will need help with.

So, Josie Price is the heiress.  Smart but naive josie has her own secrets to keep.  She meets in fairly short order with a sharp shooter known as Reliance Reiner (or Rel).  Rel also has secrets and a hidden agenda.  The two are known to each other and make a reluctant pact to team up (although they don’t have the same goals in mind).  This brings us to Mary Good Crow, half white, half Lakota, hated in Medicine Rock but one of the best guides if you want to go mining.  Mary also has a secret.  The crystals sing and she can hear them do so.  The three set off to find the stake.

The setting.  Well, Medicine Rock is pretty much as you might expect for a frontier town but, without doubt, the show stealer here are the mines themselves.  They’re an absolute movable feast.  There are the over mined and over populated tunnels but beyond that there is a darkness that is forever moving and terrible to move through.  There are huge caverns and claustrophobic crawl spaces, ghosts and other unusual creatures. The mines are inspired indeed and there’s so much more scope still to come from them.

The other thing that I have to throw in here, simply because it really amused me.  Are the nods to Calamity Jane – well, at least that’s the way I thought of them.  I love the musical and that’s my frame of reference here.  You have a young woman who can handle herself – Mary, a young woman who arrives by coach with a wardrobe of clothes that have been handed down to her – Josie.  A gun shooter – Rel, and a man from the cavalry.  Some of these characters have a very original twist that I really enjoyed but won’t spoil.  I’m sure that I probably imagined some of the references but even so – it made me smile and I frankly loved it.

The pacing is really good.  The adventures down the mines are tense and the story takes a turn that I hadn’t seen coming.  On top of this the characters really show development as the plot progresses and I look forward to seeing where they take us next.

In terms of criticisms.  I had one little issue, but, I recognise that it’s something that is probably rather nitpicky and I’m not going to go into it here – it was just something that kind of stood up and said ‘hello’ to me but may very well be overlooked by other readers, plus it would involve spoilers and that’s not a tunnel I want to delve into too deeply right now.

In short, this is a really exciting adventure.  There’s literally never a dull moment.  Plenty of  banter, the early foundations for some strong friendships and an alternate history that has scope to offer much much more.

My thanks to the author for a review copy.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

The Last Stand Of Mary Good Crow Blog Tour :
The bloggers for the tour:
 Monday (May 30th) – Fantasy Book Critic
 Tuesday (May 31st) – me
 Wednesday (June 1st) – FanFiAddict
 Thursday (June 2nd) – Before We Go Blog
 Friday (June 3rd) – Booknest
 Saturday (June 4th) – Novel Notions
Be sure to checkout all the other blogs.