Greyskin by James Kinsley from @DeixisPress #BookReview #Fantasy #Western

Greyskin by James Kinsley

Deixis Press, ebook, £3.99

Reviewed by Stephen Frame

The front cover for Greyskin by James Kinsley

Greyskin is a collection of short stories based around the time of the American civil war and the wild west, with the fantasy hook of the native inhabitants of North America being orcs rather than humans, hence the ‘greyskin’ of the title. That’s about as far as the fantasy angle goes. There are no magic or fabulous beasts here. Aside from the orcs and passing mentions of dwarves and elves, it’s Western all the way thereafter. The stories themselves are loosely inter-connected and offer an interesting variety, from poignant romance to grisly horror. Along the way, there are many stGreyskaples of the Western genre thrown in. The lone sheriff facing off against a gang of outlaws set on freeing one of their number from prison and the gallows. The grim band of soldiers, surrounded by hostiles, awaiting a dawn attack. Runaway daughters, tough frontiersmen and women, adventurers, trusty scouts, shoot-outs, knife fights, weary soldiers, stoic farmers. It’s all here.

The stories are populated by memorable characters. The writing is excellent, full of voice and redolent of the time period. As the author points out, the stories are inspired by the cinematic wild west rather than the historical time itself. If there is a flaw, it’s a fondness for cliffhanger endings, which some readers might find less than satisfying. Some of the stories suffer from being too slow-paced and could benefit from a more narrative drive, but the authentic feel of the prose goes some way to forgiving this. If there is one striking issue with this collection, it’s that very few of the stories are centred around the orcs. The principal characters in all but two of the stories are human. In some of the stories, the orcs barely rate a mention. This feels odd, given the title of the book, and to some extent, feels like a missed opportunity to explore a fairly unique take on the fantasy genre. But that aside, this collection is well worth a read.

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