Wasteland King begins where the Roadside Magic left off. Robin and Gallow are struggling to survive while trapped between two worlds. They are both half-blooded fae whom are capable of living in this reality as well as the more real sideways realms. The machinations of the two courts have put in motion a tsunami of violence that awaits the declaration of a time and place to come crashing in.
Robin and Gallow each move through the story struggling with their own pasts as well as attempting to envision a future beyond simply surviving the next encounter. Gallow, in his battle to ensure the safety of Robin, his dead wife’s sister, looks behind for the future. He is caught in his head as he tries to determine analyze the feelings he has for Robin. Bundled with this are his own self recriminations about his relationship with Daisy and how he had failed her. His plans are laser focused and leave little room for his own survival. Robin looks to the future, though through a glass darkly. She seeks revenge on the Queen of Summer for the death of a child, the manipulation of her life, and the torture undergone in the white tower. This vision in not all consuming as survival is the main barrier to her success and her resources are put into this endeavor.
Saintcrow continues her exploration of the Fae from those marginalized by the court. Instead of the grand pomp and circumstance trotted out in fairy tales, the reader is given the view from the cheap seats. The beauty of these nigh immortal creatures is shown to be the illusion that hides a deeper darkness that is smoothed over in more modern stories of faeries. Instead of tinkerbell, the pixies are revealed to be ephemeral creatures of light and magic with sharp teeth and pricking knives. Robin gives some perspective on how they are always around those of great magic yet none deign to take the time to notice them let alone understand these tiny beings.
I love tales of the Fae and find Saintcrow’s perspective on them and their society refreshing.
Robin is my favorite character of the book. She is called Robin Ragged by puck and others throughout the series. Her status a half-blood is brought up and thrown in her face at every turn. Her use to the Queen of Summer is in her ability to perform real-making which is a magical ability that is both rare and much sought after. Despite suffering these many slings and arrows and lacking the strength at arms displayer by Gallow, she still takes a stand against Summer. Despite the forces arrayed against her, she never truly gives up. Robin will struggle with finding the path forward and succumb to the crushing doubt that comes with such grand foes yet still get up and pull herself forward. In Wasteland King, I loved watching Robin struggle with her feelings surrounding both Gallow and Wren. Her distrust of other Fae runs deep and yet these two have both strived to protect her and have failed at this task as well. As she push forward with her desire to have vengeance on Summer, these thoughts serve as both a distraction and goad. Her concern for their motives helps her overlook the insurmountable odds she faces. These same odds give her the ability to work through her own issues and see Gallow and Wren’s actions as something other than crass manipulations for their own ends.
I also love that Saintcrow continues interlacing the story with vignettes about how the random mortals whose paths cross with those of the fae are affected. on the one hand, we are given the story of the truck driver who stops to give Wren a ride after he was deposited in the desert far from anything civilized. The journey is not long but the conversation is pleasant and provides a bit of perspective to the assassin about the nature of home. This chance encounter and bit of kindness to a fae in needs leads our trucker to find a more permanent home that allows him to find a deeper happiness. In stark relief is the story of the child and the oak tree. Robin is fleeing pursuit and happens upon a piece of the sideways realms anchored in the desert by a majestic oak. Here she finds a bit of solace and rest. A poor girl in a nearby trailer park leaves her home to find food which is not present their due to her mother and her friend’s drug habits. In her wanderings, the child is led to this same island in the more-than-real. She is brought in by the image of the sleeping fae and beauty of the tableau before her. She seeks shelter as well amongst the roots of the giant tree and falls to sleep there on the earth and surrounded by pixies. When Robin awakens, our view of the scene changes to show the skull of a child sinking into the loam surrounding the roots of the tree.
I love Wasteland King. The characters are so well done. From Robin and Gallow down to those that only are give a few brief moments on the stage. They are given given a depth that is welcome in the genre of urban fantasy. Saintcrow is a master of pacing and showcases her abilities in this realm with Wasteland King. The story feels like a boulder rolling down hill. The pace builds and builds while still allowing the characters time to breathe and grow. Despite the path of destruction being foreshadowed, there are surprises aplenty in both the journey and the final battle.
Wasteland King gets four bear paws out of four. It is a wonderful cap to this story. It only makes me sad that I will not longer get stories of Robin, Gallow and Wren. This is a world I would like to revisit and hope that we will be given this opportunity. Definitely a book and a series you should try.