Title: The Coilhunter Chronicles
Author: Dean F. Wilson
Genre: Western, Steampunk
Release Date: November 5, 2018
Synopsis (from Amazon):
For Coilhunter (Book 1)
Welcome to the Wild North, a desolate wasteland where criminals go to hide – if they can outlast the drought and the dangers of the desert. Or the dangers of something else.
Meet Nox, the Coilhunter. A mechanic and toymaker by trade, a bounty hunter by circumstance. He isn’t in it for the money. He’s in it for justice, and there’s a lot of justice that needs to be paid.
Between each kill, he’s looking for someone who has kept out of his cross hairs for quite a while – the person who murdered his wife and children. The trail has long gone cold, but there are changes happening, the kind of changes that uncover footprints and spent bullet casings.
Plagued by nightmares, he’s made himself into a living one, the kind the criminals and con men fear.
So, welcome, fair folk, to the Wild North. If the land doesn’t get you, the Coilhunter will.
Why I Think Boys May Enjoy This
What Dean F. Wilson has created with this series is something pretty awesome and somewhat unique. Western Steampunk is not a completely new concept (think the old Will Smith movie Wild Wild West or even the video for violinist Lindsey Stirling’s “Roundtable Rival”), it’s not heavily tapped into. That is awesome for those of us looking for a new combination of genres and Wilson doesn’t disappoint, handling both elements of his story and world fantastically.
If I had to push this story into one genre over the other, it’s more Western and a bit Steampunk-lite (especially Coilhunter, the first book in this omnibus). Outside of Nox’s “toys” (mechanical gadgets he uses to help him in his bounty hunter job) and his mode of transportation (a monowheel, which is just epic in and of itself), the steampunk elements are not key to the plot or characterization. The second book, Rustkiller, explores in much more depth the steampunk aspects, with a more thorough involvement of the autonomous clockwork constructs.
That all being said, this series is otherwise a fantastic old school Wild West (or Wild North, as it is in this world) story with some updated tidbits. Nox is intriguing from the start, with his gruff exterior (and smoke-pluming mask) and his seemingly impervious moral compass (more Wyatt Earp than Billy the Kid). Wilson took the key components of our favorite lawmen of the Old West and gave us a bit of the coldness & heartbrokenness of the Saint of Killers (from Garth Ennis’s Preacher comics).
At the end of the day, Nox is a powerful and complicated main character and drives these stories. There are some nice minor characters in each story, some with recurring roles, and a plethora of scoundrels and villains (with very Dick Tracey-esque nicknames), but the Coilhunter stories brilliance begins and ends with the title character. Everything else is just gravy.
As with most Westerns, there is definitely violence and gunplay. Language concerns are virtually non-existent. Sexuality is touched upon in the existence and mention of prostitution, but there is no explicit sexual content in any of the stories. These books are clearly written with an adult audience in mind but I wouldn’t consider them inappropriate for a high schooler. I’d put the content rating on par with a PG13 rating.
Special Note For Audio Edition
As I listened to this on audio, I wanted to add a special note about the superb performance by R.C. Bray for narration. I think part of the reason I fell in love with Nox so much was the way Bray hit his gravelly drawl so dead on. His diversification of voice made it feel like it was a full cast performance sometimes. In Rustkiller, specifically, his ability to go back and forth from hard-as-nails Nox and ultra flamboyant Porridge, was just out of this world good.