I have to admit that I am not an avid fan of Westerns. I can enjoy a good book no matter what the subject matter, though, and I know how good the fiction published by ChiZine Publications is so I dove right into "Haxan" by Kenneth Mark Hoover without any reservations.
When Marshall John T. Marwood is summoned to Haxan in the New Mexico Territory, he knows that he is going to find trouble. Marwood is one of those beings that exists almost out of time to go to fight an eternal war between good and evil. Marwood knows that evil is again loose in the Western United States in 1874. As Marwood nears Haxan, he finds a grisly murder and quickly comes to a realization. He knew that he was going to find danger and evil in Haxan. He just did not know how much.
Marwood immediately takes the murdered man's daughter into his protective custody even in the face of disapproval from the town since the young woman is half Native American. Marwood is not concerned with the opinions of others. His only concern is doing what is right and he soon finds himself thrust into a battle for his life as he faces foes both old and new as the war between good and evil rages once more.
When I started "Haxan," I was expecting a supernatural novel in a Western setting. What I found instead was a Western with some light supernatural undertones that were never really brought to the surface of the novel but rather hinted at. In reality, "Haxan" reads largely as a straightforward Western and was completely captivating. I am not a big fan of Westerns but I am a big fan of good books and that is exactly what I got in "Haxan." Right from the very first sentence of the book, I found myself drawn into the story and compelled to keep reading to see what happens next. Hoover keeps the action coming at a fever pitch but this is not a thriller in which the world of the novel is nothing more than a stage with which to frame the action. Hoover makes the world of "Haxan" come to life and I felt almost as if I was right there watching Marwood's travails rather than reading about them.
ChiZine Publications has published one of the best science fiction novels I have read as well as one of the best short story collections and it has now given me "Haxan" which could very well be the best Western I have read. I am happy that this is a part of a larger series so that we will be returning to the world of "Haxan" in the future. Underneath this novel flows a greater story that is often hinted at but never really explored and I can only look forward to seeing what Hoover plans to do with this series in the future.
I would like to thank ChiZine Publications and NetGalley for this advanced review copy. "Haxan" is scheduled to be released by ChiZine Publications on May 20, 2014.