The year is 1902 and aging gunslinger John Arthur is doing his best to survive times becoming more civilised by the day. That is whilst trying to guide his adoptive daughter Bethany ‘The Blade’ Mason to adulthood. After a troubling vision; Arthur must put it to the back of his mind as an opportunity appears in the form of three stagecoaches worth of gold. This life-changing haul just happens to be sitting in the bank of the small strange town known as Haddington but something monstrous lurks beneath the surface. Heist soon turns to horror forcing outlaw and law to align in order to survive the unexpected.
Last Outlaw: The ‘Haddington Haul’ will premiere on Tuesday the 17th of August via Patreon.
Part One will be FREE to read.
You can read more about Lee Hall’s Patreon here
“There were many things the people of Warrentown didn’t know about Raven…”
I’ll admit the first line of this book’s blurb caught my attention straight away and the reading experience that followed did not disappoint. The powerful prologue sets the scene of a remote forest setting where man came, destroyed and then left again but the constant being ‘Raven’ who is a powerful deciding figure among the trees and a place where this book finds it’s setting.
“Animals, plants and people, came and went, but Raven stayed…”
Most dystopian futures focus on cities or even the masses but Raven Woman’s Tavern homes in on the path less travelled and welcomes you to Warrentown, perhaps a forgotten corner of the world where a community of people are still trying to survive whatever happened out in that wider world. Many of them are older or just trying to get by and we meet near enough all of them along the way. It has all the feels of a Stephen King multi character piece but without the overindulgence because between them there is a real sense of community and their hub just happens to be a quaint tavern. Of course this is intentional because Raven is watching over them and protecting them with it.
The story begins to take direction as a group of young Militia turn up at the tavern looking for more than just a few drinks and their troublesome presence brings the a taste of what is going on in the wider world. After one of the group’s wallet appears to go missing they return yet again looking for trouble but instead receive a lot more. This is where things really kick up a notch because Raven starts to play with their heads and what is supposed to be a short path for them becomes a lot longer and for the sake of protecting the people of this small community. For one of them in particular this path puts everything into perspective and becomes an opportunity for Raven to recruit someone new.
Laura Koerber tells this immersive story with range and imagination. There are even a few deep metaphors about life and survival. It’s dark in places with some chills but also carries a deeper moral story about community. My only real critique would be for the ending to have a little less pace but for anyone looking to read something different with a dark fantasy edge then this is the one for you!
4 Stars – This review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery.
Colourful and imaginative with a positive message about being different…
I don’t think I’ve read a book quite like this one. ‘Moojag and the Auitcode Secret’ is a uniquely colourful blend of fantasy world meets the real subject of neurodivergence and represents it with a positive message about being different and that it’s okay to be just that. The style in which N.E. McMorran tells this story fits nicely between that of Lewis Carroll and Roald Dahl while it is targeted to a younger audience but those with more adult eyes will enjoy this one too.
The story comes first as we are introduced to this near future ‘Real World’ and three friends who quickly meets a mysterious character known as ‘Moojag’. Together they embark on an epic journey of discovery while realising there is a coming threat to the land in which they live. This quest takes them below ground to a place known as ‘Gajoomdoom’ – there are some new creative words here which is all part of the fun and the sweet colourful immersion. Throughout we gradually learn a subtle but important message, that being a positive definition of those who are neurodivergent. This makes for a wonderful lesson to readers about the awareness of autism and that some of us can be little different.
The pages seem to fly by and there even some great illustrations as these friends must find a way to rescue an important group who are held captive in this underground and sometimes sinister world. From football matches to castles and everything in between; it’s fun, uniquely random, highly imaginative and carries not just an important message, but a brave one about acceptance. Those who are able to combine immersive story telling with a message like this story has deserves every ounce of credit for the work they have done.
5 Stars – an unexpected but wonderful read that celebrates being different!