Review: Dawn in Damnation by Clark Casey

Dawn in DamnationDisclaimer: I received a free electronic version of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I had to knock a star off my rating for this book because it ended in a cliffhanger and didn’t answer any of the major narrative questions presented in the book. Which is a shame, because there are so many other things to enjoy about both this story and the author’s writing. 

This isn’t my go-to genre, but I was intrigued by the concept and I’ll try out pretty much anything. The conceit of “paranormal Western” on the cover did not disappoint. The narrator, Tom, who is not the character highlighted on the back-cover blurb, had a fantastic voice that swept me into the goings-on of this weird town said to be a stopover point before Hell. It was a fun read, full of nonstop action, even when that action is a suspenseful game of cards. There were a ton of unique and interesting characters, all of whom had interesting quirks and backstories. It was like Casey managed to shove an old Western pulp novel into a blender with a quirky soap opera and produced a taste that you’re not quite sure you enjoy until you get to the end of the book and realize you still want more.

Unfortunately, I wanted more because this felt like the first half of a really, really long book. Even the climax seemed like an interesting mid-point conflict rather than a tense ending. I hope I get the chance to enjoy that ending in a sequel, but I’d have been more satisfied if everything wrapped up in one volume.

So why did I bump this down to 3 from 4 stars instead of to 4 stars from 5? Casey relied too much on the stereotypes and tropes of old West stories. I felt a significant dearth of characters of color, with the exception of a “Chinaman” who works with the pigs and a tribe of “Indians” who keep to themselves off-screen. I find it highly unlikely that the rest of the American frontier folk who ended up in Damnation were all of European descent, and I would hope for more realistic diversity in the future of this world-building.

In conclusion: A ton of fun, looking forward to the sequel, and trying really hard not to start speaking in a Western accent after burning through the last half of this book in a single day.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Published by steelvictory

By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. Her debut novel, STEEL VICTORY, was her thesis novel for Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction graduate program in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Previously, she was one of the co-editors for FAR WORLDS, a speculative fiction anthology. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits). She is currently working on more tales set in the world of Limani.

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