I know I just tossed out a 5 star review last month, but I had no other choice here. This book is a round house punch of awesome. It came out of nowhere and tackled me into the dirt. At first I worried that it might not be Speculative Fiction, because it has a strong western feel and is certainly in the camp of Historical Fiction however, due to its brutality, I think am in well within my rights to label it horror. In fact if there are authors reading this review that would like to learn more about writing ruthless villains, they should pick up this book for that reason alone.
As mentioned, this book takes place in America's past and moved from the end of the civil war to just past the Wild West era. The thread follows a group of men that find that during the chaos of these unsure times they have the power to make their own rules and let's just say those rules rarely help anyone other than themselves. These are not men whose path anyone would wish to cross. If you did meet them, chances are you would not survive long enough for it to occur a second time.
Jackman grabs the idea of anti-heroes and takes it up about twenty notches. The Winter family is the group of villains most fiction authors would be trying to get you to hate so you felt no mercy when the 'good guys' gunned them down. This is set against a backdrop of corruption, betrayals, and severe drinking. Hedonism meets a violent Id and the walls go crashing down.
If I might digress for a moment, there is a paradigm of existence called a T.A.Z. or Temporary Autonomous Zone. This is the idea that a part of the globe, maybe even just a small place for a short time can be truly free. When you are within this TAZ, you are free from rules, laws and ownership, or at least get to make your own.
This is close to what Augustine Winter quests after. He seeks a lawless place to match his heart. Wild ownerless lands draw him, but become the doom for whenever finds him there. In some respects this novel is a clash of law and against chaos. Winter does extreme acts more to prove his freedom than for any real malice. Murder, the ultimate act of freedom.
I fully enjoyed this book, but I could see how it wouldn't be for everyone. Lovers are replaced by rape and whoring. Words are replaced by bullets and knives. No YA love interests here. If you do not want to read about life ending violence, you will not make it past the first chapter.
I think this book would be helpful for authors that have a hard time crafting villains. Also Civil War buffs and Wild West readers would also enjoy this one. If you want a wild ride into the conflict between freedom and civilization written in brains and blood, get your hands on The Winter Family.
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