**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Series: Peacemaker #1
Published by Angry Robot on April 29, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Futuristic, Urban Fantasy
AMAZON • B&N • BOOK DEPOSITORY • Goodreads
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.
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...
The premise of PEACEMAKER by Marianne De Pierres intrigued me immediately. It read like a mash up of genres from science fiction to westerns to fantasy, all set in a futuristic Australia. Combine this with the phenomenal Joey Hi-Fi cover and I was eagerly anticipating its release. In PEACEMAKER, De Pierres gives us a solid start to what I think will be an interesting series.
What I appreciate about PEACEMAKER is that De Pierres drops you into her world with very little preamble. Right at the start, you’re riding shotgun with Virgin Jackson, the intrepid heroine of the story, in the driver’s seat as she witnesses a murder that sets everything in motion. As a park ranger in one of the world’s last nature preserves, Virgin is an intriguing character. She is emotionally distant from both the people around her and the reader, and I worried I wouldn’t really care about Virgin and her problems. But I was wrong. Once the story got under way, I came to appreciate this female character with all the elements usually given over to her male counterparts – emotionally unavailable, refreshingly no nonsense, blunt, independent, and prone to no strings attached sex. I liked Virgin and the solitary world she’s carved out for herself, so much so that when that world begins to crack a little, I was right there with her in trying to put the puzzle pieces together.
Some of the strongest elements of the story are its imagery, its pacing, its compelling mystery, and its cast of characters. In terms of imagery, I couldn’t help but visualize pieces of Firefly in the western flavor of the story’s setting, Bladerunner in the noirish, near future feel in which the world is both familiar and different, and Outland in which a big bad sheriff comes to a mining colony in space to solve a murder. The pacing was excellent. I couldn’t help but compulsively turn the page as Virgin attempts to make sense of the seemingly irrational situation she finds herself in. The tension was good, the mystery of it all strong. What do a murder in the park, her father’s death, an eagle that nobody but herself can see all have in common? That’s the question that pushes the plot forward and it’s compelling enough that you desperately want the answer. There was also a nice cast of characters tied into the overall mystery. Standouts are Nate Sixkiller, the US Marshall Virgin is partnered with at the start of the story – he’s part cowboy, and part urbane gentleman; Caro, the journalist with all kinds of connections, and Corah, the untrustworthy psychic.
Where some of the story fell short for me was in the world-building, some character issues, and the conclusion. I wanted to know more about why this park is one of the world’s last nature preserves, why most of the city and intense urbanization resulted in cultural and spiritual “ghettos,” and I wanted to understand the significance of the Korax, a gang that’s on the rise. With regards to the Korax, I think De Pierres of is waiting for book two to unlock its mystery but I think more could have been done in PEACEMAKER to setup the world in order to make the mystery of the gang more impactful in subsequent books. I also have some minor quibbles in terms of character actions – why does it take Virgin so long to demand answers from Nate Sixkiller? If someone held the key to a lifelong mystery, say, why I’m seeing an imaginary eagle, I would demand answers immediately. Instead, Virgin drags out those questions in a way I found unrealistic. She also relies on a lot of help at the end, which isn’t bad but I had hoped the strong character I met at the beginning would still hold on to the reigns a bit rather than let the men take over. There are also hints at romantic attachments or interest from three men which is potential triangle overload. Finally, the conclusion felt rushed and somewhat anti-climactic. Such wonderful pacing and tension was slightly let down by an easy rescue and no answers. A big revelation comes in at the conclusion of the book, opening a door for number two, but there was a sense of dissatisfaction on the part of this reader that at least some of the answers weren’t given here.
In the end, though I had some issues with PEACEMAKER, I can’t help but be intrigued by this world and its heroine. The lack of answers makes me intensely curious as to where De Pierre’s plans on taking Virgin and crew and one thing I can’t deny is how original this story feels. It also makes me realize that Australia is an untapped source of speculative fiction for me and I loved De Pierre’s distinctly Aussie flavor in PEACEMAKER. I would recommend this book as a solid start for a unique series and I think readers who enjoy science fiction and urban fantasy will find something interesting in De Pierre’s PEACEMAKER. 3 howls!