Note – thanks to NetGalley and Angry Robot for providing the ARC of this title.
The place is Australia, the time somewhere in the not-too-distant future. In this world the steady encroachment of human dwellings into unspoiled natural lands has continued to frightening extremes. Very few areas of parkland remain and Birrinum Park is one of those. Despite the lack of obvious clues as to its location in the book I’ve decided it’s somewhere near Melbourne because I lived there for a year and it’s bloody lovely. So there. The unfortunately-monickered Virgin Jackson is a hard-working park ranger following in the footsteps of her deceased father. Willful and not entirely respectful of authority she finds herself roaming the park after hours one evening and stumbles across a couple of strangers who have no business being there. Before you know it she’s dealing with a dead body, a disappeared person and the reappearance of ghostly bird she’d last seen years ago.
Enter Nate Sixkiller (yeah, seriously), a US Marshall drafted in to help deal with the unfolding situation in Birrinum. It seems Virgin doesn’t work well with company and the imposing Native American lawman is no exception. Before long though they’re both embroiled in a plot involving shady secret societies, magical totems and animal spirit guardians. Virgin finds herself battling rival gangs, the police, her bosses and her own distrustful, reckless attitude with only a supernatural eagle to keep her in check.
If that all sounds a bit ridiculous to you then don’t worry, I wholeheartedly agree. Peacemaker is a random grab-bag of disparate elements but for all that it hangs together remarkably well. It’s not without flaws for sure. The attempts at writing in an American accent are clumsy and entirely unnecessary to the point of distraction at times. Also the plot seems to progress in fits and starts at times, almost as if a case of writers block had been solved by tossing a dart at a ‘what happens next’ board. More than these gripes though, what seemed to me to be part of the book’s core – the spirit animals – are left almost completely unexplained. I’m all for a bit of fill-in-the-blanks mystery in my books but come on, this is the one fantasy element in the book and we’re given almost nothing to go on except ‘there are these animals and they’re like ghosts but they’re not’. Maybe the next book will remedy the situation.
That said, Peacemaker is nothing if not a lot of fun. Yes it is strung together by a lot of random threads and influences but it’s done in such a carefree fashion that it’s hard not to like it. The characters are over-the-top in classic comic-book style, especially Sixkiller, and as such come to life pretty easily in your mind. Sometimes Virgin comes across as a little too whiny and shallow but I found myself rooting for her despite myself. There’s a lot of scope for development in the universe Marianne De Pierres has conjured up and hopefully its potential will be realised as her style matures.
So it’s a mixed bag really but one which manages to come out on top. Is it an all-time classic? Nope. Is it worth picking up for a quick, fun read on a rainy spring afternoon? For sure.