Book Review: The Marshal

This week, I am happy to share this review of The Marshal by J.S. Matthews.

I'm not a fan of the Western genre, in general. I have read plenty of Louis L'Amour, so I know what passes for "good western" reads, but despite my fascination with the Old West, Cowboys, Indians, etc, the genre has never really been high on my list of enjoyable reads. It may have to do with the fact that most Westerns depict The West as dirty, gritty, hot, and inhospitable, and while that is most certainly true for a large portion of the West, I always preferred The West in reference to the Rocky Mountains, mountain meadows, lakes, forests, and so on. Anyway, that's just me.

Now that I have disclaimed my general apathy toward Westerns, I have to tell you: I rather enjoyed this post-apocalyptic Western. Yeah, it was still dirty, gritty, hot, and largely inhospitable, and not just because of deserts and natural wastelands...

The book's blurb says: "The world of old is no more. The bombs fell, the fires spread, and deadly radiation was spewed across the landscape. Mankind struggled to survive in great underground tunnels, shelters, and wherever else they could find protection from the destruction above, and once the dust settled, they did their best to endure in the irradiated wastes.

Two hundred years later, humanity is rebuilding..."

In the world of The Marshal, the US is now divided east to west. When one particular villain, by the name of Kerrigan who has been presumed dead for seven years, resurfaces with a sinister plot in mind that would once again lay waste to the US, a group of Marshals are called upon to stop him. Led by young Marshal, Elizabeth Hart, and joined by a former friend of Kerrigan, Rubin Stark, the group races against time and against the elements of the wastelands of The West to stop a scarily cognizant mad man.

So what did I think?

Let me start with the bad:

If you are going to incorporate a foreign language, sprinkled in or not, please make sure it is correct! The continual misuse and incorrectly spelled Spanish was distracting and annoying. Considering I only remember rudimentary Spanish from many, many years ago in grade school, yeah - it is that bad.

Then the not so bad, but still distracting:

There is this constant build-up surrounding Stark and his previous relationship with Kerrigan. But when they finally come face to face, twice, their interaction is... well... boring. Actually, Boring, with a capital B. I was really let down. I expected these two one time friends to have some real interaction, some exciting dialogue, some semblance of feeling! Instead, it was just meh. It felt as though the author was just suddenly in a hurry to wrap up that part of the story line and move on.

Also - just a quick aside - The title and the use of "Marshal" really got under my skin at first. I sincerely assumed the word was not spelled correctly. I ended up looking it up. I had no idea that "marshal' could be spelled (as a noun) correctly with either one or two "l"s. If that distracts you too, I understand, but J.S. Matthews is actually not wrong.

Then, the good:

I really loved the world building. If you haven't gathered from my book reviews so far, I kind of gravitate toward fantasy, sci-fi, and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic books. It is gritty, and dirty, and harsh, but is believable without being over done or dragging on, and I was immersed in it.

I also appreciated the character development of Kerrigan and Stark, which is ironic because Stark is not the main character. He was more like an anti-hero. The main character, Elizabeth Hart, was okay, and while I appreciated her talent with a gun, everything else surrounding her role among a group of hardened and experienced Marshals, some seemingly at least twice her age, was not believable at all. But I gravitated to Stark and Kerrigan and got really invested in the both of them, which of course explains my disappointment with their limited interactions with each other.

I also appreciated that the author (based on previous reviews) appears to have taken time to go back over his book and address reader's concerns over general grammar. I didn't notice anything other than the occasional comma out of place, and we all know how controversial commas are, so those may have simply been author preference. ::shrug::

Overall, I give The Marshal four stars. I recommend this book for fans of the Western genre, especially any that also appreciate post-apocalyptic books, for this is a good blend of the two, I think.

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