Published: April 29th 2014 by Angry Robot
Format: eARC, 416 pages
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
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When an imaginary animal from her troubled teenage years reappears, Virgin takes it to mean one of two things: a breakdown (hers!) or a warning. Dead bodies start piling up around her, so she decides on the latter. Something terrible is about to happen in the park and Virgin and her new partner, U.S. Marshall Nate Sixkiller, are standing in its path...
Virgin Jackson is the senior ranger in Birrimun Park - the world's last natural landscape, overshadowed though it is by a sprawling coastal megacity. She maintains public safety and order in the park, but her bosses have brought out a hotshot cowboy to help her catch some drug runners who are affecting tourism. She senses the company is holding something back from her, and she's not keen on working with an outsider like Nate Sixkiller.
Wow. Just … wow.
Peacemaker is an exciting and creative narrative that skilfully combines elements of westerns, science fiction, fantasy and crime to create one of the most engaging books you’ll read this year.
The book is set in a future Australia unlike any other I’ve read: one where overpopulation has created a mega-city spanning the entire east coast and Australia’s desert is the only natural landscape left. It has been preserved as a national park, and Virgin Jackson is the senior park ranger. Moreover, the natural park has been turned into ‘Wild-West’ themed tourist attraction, where folk can roam around on horse-back and take a tour of the outback (complete with imported cacti!). I find it to be a fascinating and terrifying future for Australia, particularly in terms of the ‘asylum seekers war’ hinted at in the narrative, because it’s something I can see happening.
In addition to the unique setting of the novel, I loved the characters that de Pierres has created for this story. There’s our feisty park ranger protagonist, Virgin, and her enigmatic partner US Marshal Nate Sixkiller, her journalist best friend Caro and computer genius colleague Totes, and her lover, Heart. They all play major roles throughout the story, with Gin turning to each of them in turn for help when she’s embroiled in a murder investigation. Virgin is a great protagonist because she’s not really exceptional at anything, but her bravery and tenacity help her get through an extremely tough time in her life. It was also amazing to see Virgin interact positively with the men and women in her life, as too often female relationships are shown to be destructive, rife with cattiness and jealousy.
As I mentioned earlier, this novel really has a bit of everything, and I loved ever minute of it. What begins as a crime novel set in a SFF Western world quickly weaves in elements of mythical and urban fantasy, and the result is as clever as it is exciting. Virgin’s investigation into a murder she witnessed inside the park takes her into the criminal underbelly of her world, and she ends up getting help from a wide and weird variety of sources including a chef, an exotic dancer, and a mercenary.
Subtly woven throughout the crime drama is the mystery of the mythical creature that Virgin used to see as a child, one she’d convinced was imaginary, that has reappeared, and the mystical events that follow. It doesn’t take centre-stage in this novel, but there are strong hints that there is a lot more to discover about Gin’s ‘disincarnate’. I can’t wait to read Dealbreaker and find out!
Peacemaker showcases de Pierres’ brilliant writing and world-building skills, and is not to be missed by fans of her earlier works and those who enjoy genre-blended stories.