A Book of Tongues, Volume 1 of the Hexslinger Series

A Book of Tongues, Volume 1 of the Hexslinger Series

by Gemma Files


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780981297866
Publisher: ChiZine Publications
Publication date: 04/27/2010
Series: Hexslinger Series
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 16 Years

About the Author

Gemma Files is the winner of the International Horror Guild Award and the Black Quill Award. She has been nominated for the Lambda, the Stoker, and the Shirley Jackson Awards.

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A Book of Tongues, Volume 1 of the Hexslinger Series 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
rabidfox More than 1 year ago
Do you love a good western? Sure you do, but do you love evil westerns? Well, I think that's exactly what you're going to get when you read Gemma Files' debut novel, A Book of Tongues, whether you use that adjective in a complimentary manner or not. The novel is set in a world set a couple of years after the American Civil War, but with one key difference from ours: it's populated by wielders of magic known as hexslingers. In this world, a Pinkerton agent named Morrow is tasked with infiltrating a criminal gang led by a hexslinger known as Reverend Rook. Rook, aided by his right-hand man and lover, Chess, isn't on some mere mission of petty theft and murder. The former preacher is haunted and under the influence of an Aztex goddess bent on reentering the world and bringing a few of her friends back as well. That right there sounds like a simple enough setup for some good ol' pulpy western fun, but there's more to this story than just that. Heroes are pretty hard to come by in this novel, for one thing. Just about every major character we experience this story through has either some serious emotional baggage or just a mean-spirited streak running through them. There's also a strong "in over my head" vibe from both Morrow and Rook, as Morrow finds undercover work with the gang especially daunting when Chess' violent nature regularly rears up when out in public, and Rook's gradual discovery of what his magical powers are capable of doing and where they could lead offer a bleak future ahead of him. The story comes off a bit disjointed in parts, not only with the switches between points of view that really affect the pace of the novel, but there are also these little preludes at the beginning of each of the three acts that feel quite disparate from the rest of the book. It's an engrossing read though, unhindered by the fade-to-black moments. Some of the language, particularly relating to the mythology was a stumbling block for me--but I'm a dullard with that sort of thing anyway. A real anglophone, I am. But on the other side of that coin is Files' way to weaving the dialogue and the narrative into a rich tapestry of this magical wild west. It feels utterly authentic, and by the time I reached the end of the book I was ready for more, which is just as well because the book clearly points the reader towards the next book, A Rope of Thorns. I've read other reviews that express a certain discomfort, or simply surprise, as it relates to the unfiltered homosexuality that exists between Rook and Chess. I didn't really have any qualms with that at all. Frankly, I thought it was a nice change of pace from the cut-and-dry westerns I'm so used to watching or reading that make zero reference to gay characters, particularly genuine gay characters. In fact, the relationships between the magical elements of hexslingers and the sexuality demonstrated between them was a fascinating aspect of the novel. For a debut novel, it's an ambitious yarn Gemma Files has spun, and is yet another example of Chizine's eye for stories off the beaten path. I'm looking forward to reading A Rope of Thorns, but all the previously published short story collections of Gemma Files, because this author is one to watch in the years ahead.
kmaziarz on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Pinkerton Agent Ed Morrow is dispatched to go undercover and infiltrate the gang of the notorious preacher-turned-sorcerous outlaw Asher Rook in this genre-bending Western fantasy. Rook, once an Army chaplain, was hanged for his supposed murder of a commanding officer. Somehow, he survived his own hanging and the trauma awakened his latent magical powers, making him into what his society colloquially terms a ¿hex.¿ However, it also opened the door for a powerful Aztec goddess, the patroness of the hanged, to influence the world through him. She¿s plotting to use his powers; and those of his second-in-command and lover, the charismatic but entirely amoral and ruthless Chess Pargeter; to throw wide the gates of her underworld and return to the human world and begin her bloody reign anew. And Asher Rook is not inclined to stop her, having been promised godhood of his own. Morrow, who has discovered both the plot and, in the arms of Chess, a side of himself he never suspected, is ill-equipped to stop Rook and his bloody-minded goddess. But he throws himself into the task all the same, even though it means a trip to Hell and, if he¿s lucky, back.Fast-paced and original, File¿s genre-bender is only the first in a projected series. Having ended on a cliff-hanger, we can only hope the second comes out quickly!
chenninger on LibraryThing 8 months ago
As much as i tried and wanted to I could not get into this book. It wasn't the man on man gay action that turned me off it was the cheesy spell casting and slow evolving story that just didn't hold my attention .
kalyka on LibraryThing 8 months ago
For a debut novel (heck, for a novel, period), A Book of Tongues is a fantastic western fantasy. Two years following the American Civil War, Ed Morrow, an agent for the Pinkertons, must infiltrate an outlaw gang led by "Reverend" Asher Rook, an former Confederate chaplain turned hexslinger, and his deadly lieutenant Chess Pargeter. Morrow's task is simple: find out how powerful Rook is, and bring that information to help Professor Joachim Asbury unlock the secrets of magic himself.Meanwhile, Aztec goddess Ixchel wants Rook and Pargeter for her own selfish purposes, and they, as well as many others, outlaws and lawmakers alike, will have to go through hell to stop her from changing the world forever.I don't think I can fully describe how fun this book was to read. I'm not usually a fan of westerns, but this is hardly your ordinary western. The American West is gritty, dirty, and violent, yet it is rendered into something surreal and beautiful thanks to Files' eloquent prose. Mayan and Aztec mythologies are given central stage and become a recurring theme, and the darker aspects of their respective pantheon offers great material for a horror novel.Interestingly enough, despite the fact that the story is told by Morrow's point of view, he isn't the most compelling character, as he is merely an observer. His subjects, Rook and Pargeter in particular, are far more fascinating, as is their relationship, which is given much importance. Rook is a tortured soul, trapped between sorcery and religion, yet accepting both. As such, he makes use of Scripture to carry out his powerful spells. Pargeter, on the other hand, despises magic under any form, but tolerates the one Rook uses only because he loves him.A Book of Tongues is very graphic, with the violence as well as the sex. Chess embodies both, being a very sexual and deadly being, for reasons that become more evident as the story advances. As such, the very descriptive homosexual acts and merciless murders serve as a plot device and powerful character development.The relationship between Rook and Chess, and incidentally that of Rook and Ixchel, is a complicated one, at best. In both relationships, one person is always subjected to another. In the former, Chess is the submissive one, Rook intentionally in the dark as to why he keeps him at his side. Rook, on the other hand, is subjected to Ixchel, although he is always in a position of mistrust towards the goddess, where a continual power struggle is present. These two relationships, of which Rook is the common denominator, creates an interesting dynamic.Gemma Files, in her debut novel, takes seemingly disparate themes and successfully weaves them as if they were always meant for each other. The blood, dirt and grit common to the gunslinger era is deftly combined with the dark beauty of ancient mythology, and the mystery of magic and sorcery. All these combined make for a compelling and exciting read. 4.5/5
peterdarbyshire on LibraryThing 8 months ago
The weird west has never been weirder. Or more depraved. Hexslingers, Aztec gods, viciously gay gunslingers, cunning Pinkertons, and the end of the world itself. Files blasts open your mind and then flips you a coin in payment afterward. Pour yourself a drink. You'll need it.
andreablythe on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A Book of Tongues is a wonderfully brutal read, all the more so, because Gemma Files manages to finagle sympathy for what could otherwise be a rather unsympathetic group of characters. Many of these characters are not what you would call nice. Chess is an unapologetic murderer; Rook is desperate and ruthless; and even Morrow is a liar.Files' merciless prose reaches out and reveals what they're made of as each of these rough-shod gentlemen is trapped, bound like a fly into the webbing of the story. They're lives quickly become interwoven, and eventually they learn that they'll need each other to find their way out.At first Chess' character is the hardest to sympathize with, as he is the most openly violent and cruel. And because you see him through the lens of first Morrow and then Rook, it's hard to get a read on him other than his love of absinthe and bloodshed and his desire for Rook. But by the end of the book, as more and more of Chess and how he's put together is slowly revealed, it was Chess that I came to love the most. I feel deep rooted sympathy for him and what has befallen him in his life. He has had the hardest road, and in the face of it has stood up and laughed in its face. More than any other of the characters I want him to succeed; I want him to win.A Book of Tongues is very graphic, not only in blood and gore (of which there is plenty), but also in sexual situations. Sometimes the events were so vivid in my mind that I didn't quite know what to do with them, and I had to lower the book for a moment and take a breath before continuing.This is the kind of horror that leaves you shaken (in more ways than one), with your head spinning, and not quite sure where you stand. While actually reading the book, I don't know I could actually say that I liked it -- the experience was a little to visceral for that -- but that now I'm done reading I desperately want to read more. Thankfully, A Book of Tongues is book one of a trilogy, and the sequel, A Rope of Thorns comes out this June.
GirlMisanthrope on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A wicked, dirty, sexy, audacious western horror novel. I am in awe of Gemma Files. She inhabits multiple characters, setting each apart with language, thought, habits. The Reverend Asher Elijah Rook rises from the dead. Chess Pargeter falls in love with him. Ed Morrow, a badge-carrying 'Pink', follows them both on a trail of pure mayhem and madness. The prose is dense and atmospheric. It gets murky when the Mayan and Aztec gods and goddesses emerge, and I found myself skimming over some of those parts. I fell in love with Ms. Files' description of black magic, practiced by people who are 'hexes'. It's dark and spooky and you yourself will be wrapped around the Rev's finger. Or maybe Chess's; he is quite the charmer. Who wants to turn this into an HBO series?!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago