The Incorruptibles is a darkly complelling fantasy concocted of ancient Rome, Wild West, Faust, Tolkien, Lovecraft and Dante, according to a blub on the back cover. Jacob pulls off this mash-up --- after a slow start --- with such heart-pounding action that you’re left breathless and begging for more.
The halfbreed dvergar Shoestring and the renegade Fisk are hired guns escorting the daemon-powered paddle wheeler Cornelian up the Big Rill through the Hardscrabble Territories to Passasuego. On board is Senator Cornelius of Rume, acting governor of the Territories and patriarch of a noble but pathologically disfunctional family. When the Cornelians' reluctant guest, Isabelle, is kidnapped by vaettir, lethal indigenes also called “stretchers,” Shoestring and Fisk are sent to recover her. The penalty for failure isn’t just war, disgrace and death, but eternal damnation.
The novel mixes supernatural horror with the grubby realities of frontier life. Guns fire daemon-propelled bullets, and every shot takes another bite of the shooter's soul. Legionaries tote rifles and explosives, engineers call upon the powers of darkness, the vaettir take their vengeance in blood, and gods turn out to be devils in disguise.
The references to old Norse/Germanic mythology, combined with the descriptions of the Territories, and the Roman element, also bring to mind the Magyar "cowboys" that roamed the Hungarian plains, and Rome's bloody efforts to subdue that area of eastern Europe. A stark but beautiful land, it was a lawless frontier fought over for centuries, and still bears the scars of that history today.
This is the first of a projected trilogy; the second volume, to be published next year, will be Foreign Devils. Jacobs' background is in advertising and he hails from Arkansas.
Click HERE for a review from Fantasy Book Review (UK).
Click HERE for a review from tor.com.
Click HERE for a review and background on the author from Arkansas Times.