Brings the Lightning
by Peter Grant
Published by Castalia House (2016)
Brings the Lightning by Peter Grant (I have profiled the author here) is a relaxing read, approximating the slow pace of life in the book’s Old West setting. What this means, however, is that your e-reader will not drip with blood since the gunfights are few and far between, and they don’t last very long, just like in real life. Readers looking for realism would love this book, while readers looking for huge body counts would not. Read on for the rest of the review.
First, some disclosure: I have occasionally chatted with the author over e-mail, though not at all regularly. Second, I am unfamiliar with literary Westerns — the names Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey are often thrown around, but they mean nothing to me. However, that makes me the ideal reviewer for this book, since I have no prior expectations for what a literary Western should read like.
As for the book itself, here’s the rundown: Walter Ames, a former Confederate soldier, returns to his childhood home after a few years living in the wild on his own. He returns to find his younger sister married to a Union soldier and his former schoolteacher Rose — only eight years his senior — heavily indebted to the government. Since there was nothing left for him in his childhood home, he and Rose decided to make a trip out West to start a new life. Throughout his trip, he fights outlaws and Indian tribes.
The book makes it quite clear what kind of place the Old West was. From the start, Ames fights bandits who were robbing former Confederate soldiers that had the misfortune to pass through their land. He shows no great discomfort stealing or killing if that is what the situation requires for him to stay alive. You cannot depend on the army or the lawmen to keep yourself safe; you have to watch your back and keep your powder dry. The frontier requires you to give every ounce of effort if you want to make it. Ames, Rose, and the two black teamsters Elijah and Samson have distinct, clear personalities, and all understand the demands of frontier life, accepting it without complaint and getting the job done. Characterization is definitely the book’s strong point.
The book falls down, however, in the pacing. Too much time is spent on logistics; while learning about the types of supplies you’d need and how things got around on the frontier was interesting, it took too much time away from the plot. The only reason I didn’t skip these sections was because I hoped something would happen, but it didn’t. The only benefit I saw was that it made the action scenes stand out more.
This ties in with my second main criticism: the lack of a proper plot. It wasn’t entirely clear what Ames’ end goal was when it should’ve been clear from the start, and I think this lack of a goal led to the pacing problems mentioned earlier. While the story picks up near the end, the climax is underwhelming, since you were never getting a buildup in the first place.
All that being said, read this book if you want a semi-realistic account of life in the Old West. Sometimes, a story with a relaxing pace is a good thing, and if that’s your cup of tea, you’d love this. But if you’re looking for something with a bit more action, this isn’t the book for you.
You can buy Brings the Lightning at Amazon.