NUNSLINGER | STARK HOLBORN | BOOK REVIEW

Our book reviews are really doing well and everyone seems to enjoying them, as such we have added a new book Kernel to the cob. Please welcome Kernel Kate Dawes to the bucket of Salty Popcorn. To become a Kernel I get candidates to submit a book review of a favourite or recently read book and if it is acceptable I will publish it and add the Kernel into the reviewing circle of delights. Kate submitted this review, for NUNSLINGER by Stark Holborn. I was immediately impressed with the originality in book choice for submission and sheer awesomeness of the plot and style. I can totally see Quentin Tarantino insisting on making this movie, with obligatory Danny Trejo cameo – could Anne Hathaway or Jessica Alba play a nun??

NUNSLINGER is published by Hodder and Stoughton out of the UK and I do believe it does not have an Australian publisher but is imported into niche/ art-house bookstores. The Stark Holborn website advises it is definitely at Pages and Pages in Mosman – if not in-store you can order it from HERE. Please join me in welcoming Kernel Kate and enjoy her debut review. All the best……….JK.

 

NUNSLINGER: THE COMPLETE SERIES WANTED POSTER IMAGE
NUNSLINGER: THE COMPLETE SERIES | STARK HOLBORN | SALTY POPCORN BOOK REVIEW | WANTED POSTER IMAGE

 

BY KATE DAWES

Stark Holborn’s NUNSLINGER takes us on a wild west adventure as we follow Sister Thomas Josephine on her perilous journey from her cloistered convent life in St Louis to the new frontier of Sacremento, California. Along the way she is forced to face ambushes, outlaws, saints and sinners as well as confronting her own past, future, faith and calling all while dishing out her own brand of frontier justice.

Set in 1864 we first meet Sister Thomas Josephine in the unforgiving Laramie Plains moments after the wagon train she is travelling in as ambushed. Seemingly rescued by Lieutenant Theodore F. Carthy – a man beautiful enough to be mistaken for the lord himself, our heroine is swiftly kidnapped by the outlaw Abraham C. Muir. Torn between her little known saviour and seemingly cruel captor Sister Thomas Josephine must wrestle with her own feelings and her vocation and do what it takes to make it back to the safety of Fort Laramie. Unfortunately this is only the start of her misadventure! Soon, finding herself wrongly accused of murder and chased by a man obsessed by her, the Sister must team back up with Muir to try and escape the gallows and make her way to her new convent in California.

Through an adventure which takes them across the continent from Missouri to Mexico to The Mississippi River and a Mountain blizzard we follow her journey from devout nun to a wanted woman who handles a gun well enough to earn the moniker ‘The Six-gun Sister’ and is sentenced to hang more than once. Fighting alongside cowboys and Indians, soldiers and rebels we see the Sister’s sense of justice develop from a slightly bookish abstract notion of right and wrong which may have served well in convent life to a no-holds barred dishing out of vigilantism in a sometimes lawless and corrupt society.

 

NUNSLINGER: THE COMPLETE SERIES BOOK COVER IMAGE
NUNSLINGER: THE COMPLETE SERIES | STARK HOLBORN | SALTY POPCORN BOOK REVIEW | BOOK COVER IMAGE

 

While the main characters and story lines are well developed and provide a slow reveal of characters back-stories and a gradual deepening of the relationships between the characters the minor-characters do feel slightly caricatured with Indian warriors, Mexican peasants and big noting journalists providing comic relief, lucky alliances and generally adding to the feeling of the dime-store western parts of this book are modelled on.

First released as a digital only serial in twelve books released three at a time each and later published as a collected work this 615 page collected volume does follow a ‘cliff hanger at the end of every book’ format to a large extent and while I did find myself towards the end wondering how many more tricky spots our protagonists could find themselves in the narrative flows easily and I found myself being swept along in an action adventure ride featuring daring escapes, close calls, cross-dressing (naturally) and even the odd explosion.

 

NUNSLINGER: THE COMPLETE SERIES BOOK IMAGE
NUNSLINGER: THE COMPLETE SERIES | STARK HOLBORN | SALTY POPCORN BOOK REVIEW | BOOK IMAGE

 

As you might expect from any story about a nun on the run the themes of sin and redemption feature throughout the story line with multiple conversations between the primary characters throughout about the sins of individual characters and society as a whole as well as the narrative increasingly drawing the main characters into the darker aspects of human behaviour in Civil War era America. The more we see Sister Thomas Josephine pass judgement on the actions of others the more she is described herself in wanted posters and news articles as a sinner and the more she questions her own faith and what it means to be a woman of god. As a parallel to this the deeper we are taken into the tangle of morality the more our protagonists pasts are revealed allowing us to see the cycle of redemption in each character and leading us to wonder who, if anyone, will come full circle.

I have to admit the title was what first drew my attention and set my expectations before I even picked the book up and Holborn (the self described “pseudonym of a thrilling new voice in fiction”) delivers with a fast paced mix of action, well constructed characters and pure western pulp fiction. Touted as ‘the true story of Sister Thomas Josephine’ I doubt even the wild west could keep up with too many heroines like this one.

 

4 Pops

 

** Photo credits from http://starkholborn.com

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