The world was filled with all sorts of creepy-crawly critters and that made Melinda West happy. The 29-year-old sharpshooter was a gunslinger-for-hire and she enjoyed killing monsters. To paraphrase St. Mustaine: Killing monsters was her business and business was good.
In K.C. Grifant’s new novel set in the Wild (Weird) West, Melinda and her dreamy sidekick Lance Putnam come face-to-face with a glut of monstrous creatures, including giant flying scorpions, soul-sucking bugs, large canines made of ice, mind-controlling slugs, snakes with fish heads, owls with spider legs and an enormous 20-foot snow kraken. According to Melinda and Lance, any monster could be squashed, and they were the ones to do it.
But all things eventually come to an end—or that’s what the pair thought. They didn’t want to hunt monsters for the rest of their lives. They had plans to buy some land, build a home, get married and start a family. With one final payload, they announced their retirement.
Sadly, their retirement only lasted one measly day. Melinda’s subconscious told her that she would never experience a moment of peace. There would always be more monsters to kill. With a heavy heart, she and Lance embarked on their most epic adventure yet.
They both knew that monsters came from a nearby mountain range colloquially known as the Edge. But what they didn’t know was this: the Edge wasn’t a landlocked geographic location—it was a nebulous portal connecting Earth to a multiverse of demons and wizards.
Melinda and Lance needed to find the Edge quickly because a big nasty demon was busy collecting souls to enlarge the gateway between worlds. If it was successful, reality would never be the same again.
Grifant’s prose really comes alive when describing her boss demon (“a monster making and feasting on an abundance,” she says). Even though Adamophelin took many forms, the author never stumbles with her descriptive language. “It took a step forward,” she writes at one point, “like a bull that had learned to walk on hind legs. It was both hideous and captivating to look at, and when it spoke it sounded like a snake learning to speak through a human mouth.”
Melinda West: Monster Gunslinger features an anachronistic clash of traditional genre tropes and modern-day semiotics. It’s a fun mashup that mostly works. In particular, Grifant has gone out of her way to include a diverse and inclusive cast of characters in her quest narrative. Good for her.
One final comment. Melinda West is a big lady (her boyfriend describes her as “a sullen gal taller than a snake on stilts”), but for some reason we’re never explicitly told how tall she is. Why is that? Is she as tall as Brittney Griner or She-Hulk? Gisele Bündchen? Michelle Obama? I want to know.
[Melinda West: Monster Gunslinger / By K.C. Grifant / First Printing: February 2023 / ISBN: 9781957537375]