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The Coilhunter Chronicles by Dean F. Wilson – Spoiler Free Series Review

The Coilhunter Chronicles by Dean F. Wilson – Spoiler Free Series Review
Book Name: Coilhunter, Rustkiller, and Dustrunner
Author: Dean F. Wilson
Publisher(s): Dioscuri Press (US)
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Steampunk / Western
Release Date: April 16, 2017 / December 5, 2017 / February 26, 2018

Steampunk Batman meets A Fistful of Dollars (and later, the Borg).

Coilhunter (cover)Despite Fantasy-Faction originally being a British website, I am pretty sure that everyone knows Americans romanticize the Wild West: the freewheeling setting, the gunslinger vigilante who stands up to the bad guys when the government can’t. It might as well be the bedrock of American foreign policy.

Despite my American nationality, it’s never been my thing. Give me a choice between Spaghetti Westerns and the Japanese Chanbara genre they influenced, I’ll take sake over bourbon any day. Offer me the Western for free, however, and my Chinese heritage takes over. That’s how I got ahold of the audiobook for Dean Wilson’s Coilhunter Trilogy.

It’s a steampunk Wild West setting in a secondary world, where an Iron Empire has conquered East, South, and West, but leaving the North for rugged individualists. Saloons, houses of ill-repute, steampunk-vehicles, and Native Peoples help flesh out the setting. Gold and silver are next to worthless unless it can somehow shade you from the sun or collect water, while iron is the only precious metal. Iron coils are used as currency.

Rustkiller (cover)Which is how the main character, Nox, gets his nickname: The Coilhunter. Once an engineer, the murder of his family and mutilation of his body transformed him into a bounty hunter out for justice. While I had planned to relate him to Deadpool in my original tagline, I decided Batman was more a more fitting comparison. Where he once made children’s toys, he now makes steampunk gadgets, not only to help him breathe, but also to hunt down criminals—all from out of his own version of the Bat Cave.

Something of a superhero with his tools, quick trigger finger, and accuracy, he has become the best bounty hunter in the North. He is more-or-less a loner, too afraid to form meaningful relationships because of his past losses. All he is missing is a Bruce Wayne alter ego. His invincible persona kept me from connecting deeply with him, but his underlying compassion helps to ameliorate that.

Dustrunner (cover)Book one, Coilhunter, starts as a regular job, which not only introduces us to a colorful rogues’ gallery of wanted criminals, but also gives him a clue as to the identity of his family’s murderer. In book two, Rustkiller, he rescues two children and confronts a steampunk version of Star Trek’s Borg. And in book three, Dustrunner, he is framed for massacring a native tribe. In each story, he forms tentative alliances and meets a possible love interest, a potential new family, and a promising family pet.

The pace is as breakneck as that summary: each chapter goes by fast, ending with cliffhangers that segue smoothly into the next. Action continues nearly non-stop, with gunfight after gunfight. Where The Coilhunter Chronicles shines is the omniscient narrator. You could almost hear Clint Eastwood’s voice. Wilson does a brilliant job of playing with words to come up with maxims about how tough life is in the Wild North, while personifying the sun, the land, etc., as dangers.

I rate book one an 8.5, book two a 8.5, and book three and 8.25, with the entire series being an 8.5.

NOTE: From speaking with the author, his other series, The Great Iron War, takes place in the same world.


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