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A Book of Tongues: Volume I of the Hexslinger Series Paperback – May 14 2012


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Frequently Bought Together

A Book of Tongues: Volume I of the Hexslinger Series + A Tree Of Bones / Hexslinger, Vol 3 + A Rope Of Thorns/Hexslinger, Vol 2
Price For All Three: CDN$ 39.60


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: ChiZine; 1st edition (May 14 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0981297862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0981297866
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #353,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Gemma Files is a Canadian horror writer, journalist, and film critic. Her short story, "The Emperor's Old Bones", won the International Horror Guild Award. Five of her short stories were adapted for the television series The Hunger.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bookie on Feb. 16 2011
Format: Paperback
Highly, highly recommended!

This beautiful, disturbing book achieves something almost impossible in the fantasy genre: it sucks you, body and soul, into an alternative world without wasting any time on scenic description, character portraiture, or technical explanation about that world. Okay, there are three pages of dense, mystical Prologue setting up the Aztec-deity framework, but by the time you're halfway through the first page of Chapter One you've forgotten all about that, because you've just been introduced to your first openly-gay wild-west outlaw, Chess Pargeter, and he's already leaving a trail of corpses in his wake.

I don't read Westerns. Or Horror. Or Gay Erotica. But I love encountering the unexpected in fiction: a plot that keeps twisting beyond my ability to predict what'll happen, imagery that leaps off the page and makes me shudder with delight, a collapsing of good vs. evil until I'm not sure whom I should be rooting for. This book is gruesome, but never gratuitous.

Gemma Files is a wordslinger. She conjures a scene with such grace and delicacy that moments of vicious violence and raucous sex (and there are plenty of both!) seem. . .uplifting? This was the final surprise for me, reading the novel: that such a dark romp of a tale could tell me something true about human emotion. I think it's because the protagonists feel as deeply as they act. The nervy, quick-draw Chess, the preacher-turned-wizard Rook, and the double-agent Morrow'all three are complex, troubled characters whose loyalties and insecurities boil down to the love of one man for another, and the costs of that love.

The Hexslinger series is an epic love story, even if it is splashed across the canvas of a world gutted by greed, war, self-righteousness and the vengeful plans of extinct gods.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Wag The Fox on April 4 2011
Format: Paperback
Do you love a good western? Sure you do, but do you love evil westerns? Well, I think that's exactly what you're going to get when you read Gemma Files' debut novel, A Book of Tongues, whether you use that adjective in a complimentary manner or not.

The novel is set in a world set a couple of years after the American Civil War, but with one key difference from ours: it's populated by wielders of magic known as hexslingers. In this world, a Pinkerton agent named Morrow is tasked with infiltrating a criminal gang led by a hexslinger known as Reverend Rook. Rook, aided by his right-hand man and lover, Chess, isn't on some mere mission of petty theft and murder. The former preacher is haunted and under the influence of an Aztex goddess bent on reentering the world and bringing a few of her friends back as well.

That right there sounds like a simple enough setup for some good ol' pulpy western fun, but there's more to this story than just that. Heroes are pretty hard to come by in this novel, for one thing. Just about every major character we experience this story through has either some serious emotional baggage or just a mean-spirited streak running through them. There's also a strong "in over my head" vibe from both Morrow and Rook, as Morrow finds undercover work with the gang especially daunting when Chess' violent nature regularly rears up when out in public, and Rook's gradual discovery of what his magical powers are capable of doing and where they could lead offer a bleak future ahead of him.

The story comes off a bit disjointed in parts, not only with the switches between points of view that really affect the pace of the novel, but there are also these little preludes at the beginning of each of the three acts that feel quite disparate from the rest of the book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 21 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Hexes and guns Sept. 27 2010
By Terry Weyna - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A western horror story full of gay gunslingers and the Pinkerton men they seduce - sometimes you can understand why people ask writers where they get their ideas, because Gemma Files sure had a humdinger of one with this first novel. Throw in some Mayan mythology and a lot of magic, and you've got a plot that comes at you so fast and furiously that you have to put the book down just to catch your breath.

A Book of Tongues is Volume One of the Hexslinger Series, to be continued (soon, I hope) in A Rope of Thorns. Two characters dominate this volume: Chess Pargeter, an incredible shot who thinks as little of killing another man as you or I think of killing a mosquito; and his lover, Reverend Asher Elijah Rook, an ex-Confederate chaplain who becomes imbued with magic when he undergoes the punishment meant for another man. The story is told mostly from the point of view of Edward Morrow, a Pinkerton man sent to infiltrate Rook's gang and get a reading on his magical abilities.

Rook is a reluctant hexslinger, one who uses Bible verses to shape and charge his magic only when he sees no other alternative - at least, that's the case at the outset of the novel. He falls into a life of crime pretty much by accident, the same way he falls into a sexual and emotional relationship with Chess, but once started down that road, he has to figure out how to deal with it all. He wrestles mightily with all of this, none of which he asked for; some might say he became a bad man solely because he chose to be a good man on one occasion.

Chess believes he is simply a gunslinger who happens to be a homosexual. The son of a San Francisco whore, he seems himself as something similar, a man who uses sex to get what he wants - except when it comes to Rook. He fascinates men who consider themselves heterosexual, and they seem to fall in love with him - truly in love - with surprising ease. Is this Chess's own magic, or is there something else going on here?

Morrow tries to figure the whole thing out, and to measure the magic Rook gives off for a special study the Pinkertons are doing, but he finds himself involved in the gang more deeply than he expected. When Rook goes on a sort of magical mystery tour and drags Chess and Morrow along, things get very ugly.

Files writes about graphic sex and violence in way that does not spare her readers in the slightest. You're likely to wind up with things you'd rather not have in your head, in a kind of detail that you can't easily shake out. Yet despite this, or maybe because of it, the pace of A Book of Tongues starts to flag around the middle of the book. Files, who has written plenty of short fiction, doesn't yet seem to have the pacing of a novel figured out, much less the pacing of a series of at least two books. The power of the images she builds with her horrific descriptions dissipates the longer she writes, so that one becomes inured to it and wants merely to know what happens next, and becomes impatient with yet another bloody scene.

There is a strong talent at work here. As Files polishes her work and her technique, I expect that she will be writing novels strong enough to compete with the best in the horror field. Despite my misgivings about the pacing of A Book of Tongues, I'm left wanting to know what happens next to these characters. I'll definitely be seeking out A Rope of Thorns.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
They don't wear white hats. April 4 2011
By Wag The Fox - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Do you love a good western? Sure you do, but do you love evil westerns? Well, I think that's exactly what you're going to get when you read Gemma Files' debut novel, A Book of Tongues, whether you use that adjective in a complimentary manner or not.

The novel is set in a world set a couple of years after the American Civil War, but with one key difference from ours: it's populated by wielders of magic known as hexslingers. In this world, a Pinkerton agent named Morrow is tasked with infiltrating a criminal gang led by a hexslinger known as Reverend Rook. Rook, aided by his right-hand man and lover, Chess, isn't on some mere mission of petty theft and murder. The former preacher is haunted and under the influence of an Aztex goddess bent on reentering the world and bringing a few of her friends back as well.

That right there sounds like a simple enough setup for some good ol' pulpy western fun, but there's more to this story than just that. Heroes are pretty hard to come by in this novel, for one thing. Just about every major character we experience this story through has either some serious emotional baggage or just a mean-spirited streak running through them. There's also a strong "in over my head" vibe from both Morrow and Rook, as Morrow finds undercover work with the gang especially daunting when Chess' violent nature regularly rears up when out in public, and Rook's gradual discovery of what his magical powers are capable of doing and where they could lead offer a bleak future ahead of him.

The story comes off a bit disjointed in parts, not only with the switches between points of view that really affect the pace of the novel, but there are also these little preludes at the beginning of each of the three acts that feel quite disparate from the rest of the book. It's an engrossing read though, unhindered by the fade-to-black moments. Some of the language, particularly relating to the mythology was a stumbling block for me--but I'm a dullard with that sort of thing anyway. A real anglophone, I am. But on the other side of that coin is Files' way to weaving the dialogue and the narrative into a rich tapestry of this magical wild west. It feels utterly authentic, and by the time I reached the end of the book I was ready for more, which is just as well because the book clearly points the reader towards the next book, A Rope of Thorns.

I've read other reviews that express a certain discomfort, or simply surprise, as it relates to the unfiltered homosexuality that exists between Rook and Chess. I didn't really have any qualms with that at all. Frankly, I thought it was a nice change of pace from the cut-and-dry westerns I'm so used to watching or reading that make zero reference to gay characters, particularly genuine gay characters. In fact, the relationships between the magical elements of hexslingers and the sexuality demonstrated between them was a fascinating aspect of the novel.

For a debut novel, it's an ambitious yarn Gemma Files has spun, and is yet another example of Chizine's eye for stories off the beaten path. I'm looking forward to reading A Rope of Thorns, but all the previously published short story collections of Gemma Files, because this author is one to watch in the years ahead.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Suffers as the first in a series, but this vivid, brutal book is as compelling as it is unique. Recommended May 20 2010
By Juushika - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Two years after the Civil War, Pinkerton agent Ed Marrow goes undercover with a dangerous outlaw gang lead by Rook, a Reverend turned hexslinger, and Chess, skilled gunslinger and Rook's lover. In a version of the Wild West where magic is a real and present danger, Rook is an even bigger threat: he is haunted by an Aztec goddess with her sights set on bringing gods back into the world. A Book of Tongues is, perhaps, one of the most unique books I've ever read. Hexslingers mingling with gunslingers in the Wild West, Aztec mythology, and shameless homosexual content make for a premise far off the beaten path, which may be unappealing to some readers and--because the premise infiltrates every aspect of the book right down to its narrative voice--require adjustment and adaptation from even more. And even if gay mages in the post-Civil War South seems to you like normal fair, A Book of Tongues is so bloody, bold, and resolute that it comes like a swift punch in the gut: sudden, solid, and breathtaking. Files never shies from the worst, and her book is replete with authentic antiheros and despicable behavior--yet, somehow, she build characters and a plot that demand the reader's care and personal investment, perhaps because the unique narrative voice, precise and gritty language, and colorful characters are so immerse and, therefore, convincing. Whenever the vivid characters or slightly indulgent sex scenes begin to run away with themselves, Files draws it back with a universal willingness--almost a willful glee--to destroy. Nothing in A Book of Tongues is sacred, but many things are true.

For all this, the book is not perfect. It suffers a bit as the first in a series (and not just because I dislike series): as it draws the first act to a close and sets up the many events to come, the end of the book tends towards more talk than action. It's not so much as to create an annoying cliffhanger (although it's a cliffhanger, all right), but it may make the reader wish the book were shorter or longer, so as to contain less preparation or more action. Some content, the sex in particular, tends towards fanfiction-esque wish-fulfillment. And the originality of the style and premise sometimes makes the book a little strange, difficult to pick up, and hard to get into. Indeed, this is never a book that I would have picked up on my own without the benefit of an enthusiastic recommendation. Even with its weaknesses, I now offer it an enthusiastic recommendation of my own: if only that I may share my enthusiasm with others, give A Book of Tongues a try. Brutal, vibrant, and truly one of a kind, it defies expectation by digging so deep into its premise that it works its way down to a raw, hitherto unseen level all its own.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Gripping, Gorgeous Feb. 16 2011
By bookie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This beautiful, disturbing book achieves something almost impossible in the fantasy genre: it sucks you, body and soul, into an alternative world without wasting any time on scenic description, character portraiture, or technical explanation about that world. Okay, there are three pages of dense, mystical Prologue setting up the Aztec-deity framework, but by the time you're halfway through the first page of Chapter One you've forgotten all about that, because you've just been introduced to your first openly-gay wild-west outlaw, Chess Pargeter, and he's already leaving a trail of corpses in his wake.

I don't read Westerns. Or Horror. Or Gay Erotica. But I love encountering the unexpected in fiction: a plot that keeps twisting beyond my ability to predict what'll happen, imagery that leaps off the page and makes me shudder with delight, a collapsing of good vs. evil until I'm not sure whom I should be rooting for. This book is gruesome, but never gratuitous.

Gemma Files is a wordslinger. She conjures a scene with such grace and delicacy that moments of vicious violence and raucous sex (and there are plenty of both!) seem. . .uplifting? This was the final surprise for me, reading the novel: that such a dark romp of a tale could tell me something true about human emotion. I think it's because the protagonists feel as deeply as they act. The nervy, quick-draw Chess, the preacher-turned-wizard Rook, and the double-agent Morrow--all three are complex, troubled characters whose loyalties and insecurities boil down to the love of one man for another, and the costs of that love.

The Hexslinger series is an epic love story, even if it is splashed across the canvas of a world gutted by greed, war, self-righteousness and the vengeful plans of extinct gods.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Deadly Hexslingers in a Wilder Old West Than You Could Ever Imagine July 14 2010
By April - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The "Reverend" Asher Rook is a powerful hexslinger who along with his lieutenant Chess Pargeter and their gang have been wreaking havoc as outlaws in the Old West. Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow has gone undercover, not exactly to stop them, but to gain information on the magic-user in order to find an effective counter-measure to stop him from running rampant. Rook's magic is horrific and unstoppable, but even darker forces are at work as he is courted by ancient gods with an unquenchable thirst for blood and sacrifice. And Morrow faces the danger of any undercover agent--of falling under the sway of the magnetic evil of the men and forces he's sworn to fight.

The author has an incredible way with dialogue and turns of phrase, making the language weighty and convincing and magical, even when we sense we are not in Kansas anymore. The writing is literary in the most action-packed, bloody and gritty way possible. Here the men are deadly and the women deadlier, and there are no limits-- to the violence, the mayhem or the sex. (It still amazes me that people will happily read a book where people are torn apart by the boat-load and yet complain about sex scenes. What very strange values people have. But for those who do happen to object to sex more than killing, you are hereby warned!)

I adored this book, a total tour de force of a fantasy gritty EXTREMELY dark (horror) Western, and can't wait for the next in the series.


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