Author: A.M. Burns
Publisher: DSP Publications
Length: 216 Pages
At a Glance: A fantastic western steampunk tale with a focus on Native folklore.
Reviewed By: Brock
Blurb: After his family is killed by thieves, sole survivor Trey McAlister is taken in by a nearby Comanche clan. Trey has a gift for magic and the clan’s shaman, Singing Crow, makes him an apprentice. While learning to control his powers, Trey bonds with a young warrior and shape shifter, Grey Talon. When they are sent out on a quest to find the missing daughter of a dragon, they encounter the same bandits who murdered Trey’s family, as well as a man made of copper who drives Trey to dig deeper into the magics that created him.
It doesn’t take them long to discover a rancher near Cheyenne, Wyoming is plotting to build a workforce of copper men—and has captured the dragon’s daughter they’ve been searching for. Trey and Grey Talon must draw on all their knowledge and skills to complete their quest—one that grows more complicated, and more dangerous, with each passing day.
Review: Burns was a new author for me, and I can say this will not be the last work I read of his. Admittedly, at first I was hesitant to pick this up, but I’m glad I did finally read it. The win for me in this novel was, without a doubt, the fantastic Native folklore—how Burns wove it into the storytelling, but also created a powerful environmental statement with it.
When I see Science Fiction/Fantasy with modern minorities, specifically Natives, I’m a bit leery about the possibility of cultural appropriation, but I didn’t have to worry about that. Burns doesn’t just use actual tribes, but he also takes their actual history and weaves it into his tale, giving proper respect and credit to all parties. The story takes place in the Wild West, and even though there are dragons and automatons and magic, it’s clear that he did some amazing research for this piece. We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of how much knowledge he has of this time in history, and that ultimately made me feel very comfortable in the world he created.
I was in awe of the aspects of Native folklore. I especially loved all of the conversations Trey and Grey Talon had with the elders and spirits. The way they use language, the magic they wove, and their connection to the Earth was breathtakingly beautiful. It reminded me of when I was a child, and we’d have a local storyteller tell us stories of Raven and Coyote, and a host of other amazing tales. It was the only time I remember a large group of children being completely captivated and still for hours. Her voice still echoes in my mind at times, and I felt a bit of that nostalgia when I was reading.
The one criticism I’d have for this work is that it didn’t feel—to me—as if there was enough character development. The relationship between Grey Talon and Trey was already well established before the book started, and although there were quite a few flashbacks to other points in their life, none were really about how they fell in love. This wasn’t a Romance, so I didn’t mind that it wasn’t all mush and feelings; however, it seemed as if the character with the greatest story and potential for agency and growth was the metal man, Copperpot, who was more of a minor character and wasn’t one of the main points of view. But even he wasn’t as fully developed as he could have been. I wondered, while reading, if this story was supposed to be mainly plot driven, but I’m not sure if the action was fast paced enough to warrant the lack of attention to these characters, who were absolutely fantastic but weren’t utilized to their full potential. The ending could have been used to enhance that missing element, but it was a bit rushed.
All in all, a great read, especially if you love Native folklore and/or steampunk.
You can buy Native Wind here: