It starts with a mysterious stranger drinking alone in the local saloon and ends with three dead men. At least, they appeared to be men at first, but the manner in which they died brings that into question. Why stake a man through the heart and, better yet, what kind’ve man has the strength to do such a thing?

It is a question that concerns the Sheriff a great deal, not least because he knows exactly what kind of man he is dealing with. He has encountered his kind before when he was called upon to put down a nest of vampires in his younger days. Now, the vampires are the least of his concerns, as something a lot more deadly has settled in his town and he may need to join forces with those he’d previously hunted down if he’s going to be able to stop it.

Once Upon A Fang in the West throws all kinds of things at the reader and it really doubles down on the more outlandish elements of the story. It reads like a classic spaghetti western, the whole book, particularly the pacing, feeling very cinematic. Then, Dover throws in some vampires, ghosts, and demons to make things a little more interesting, dials the violence up to eleven, and gives some fun little nods to how out there what we are reading truly is. There is rarely a dull moment in ‘Once Upon A Fang In The West’ and if the title sounds like something you might read, then the contents certainly won’t disappoint.

One of the things that worked very well was the non-linear narrative, which is constantly switching between characters and often giving the reader flashbacks to their past lives that go some way to explaining certain plot details or character motivations without unnecessary or clunky monologues or info dumps. These flashbacks are always perfectly placed, doing nothing to slow down the books’ forward momentum and often prove to be some of the story’s highlights. 

I also liked the characters a great deal and there wasn’t one that I could honestly say wasn’t a lot of fun to spend time with. While Finn and the Sheriff shared a lot of the limelight with Ruby (a personal favourite character of mine) I also really enjoyed the subplot involving Jesse and found him to be one of the breakout characters. There was also some history suggested between Finn and Samuel that was very engaging, and that I would have liked to have seen explored further.

If there was one issue I had with the book, it’s that there is so much going on, that I left feeling like some sub-plots got a more satisfactory resolution than others. Finn and Samuel have a strained relationship, to say the least, and we get some insight into why thanks to some flashbacks, but it feels like a bit of a leap and there are elements of their former friendship that feel like they could have been embellished a little more to justify the vitriol between the two in modern-day. Same with the Sheriff and Jesse. Their relationship is perhaps the most interesting the book has to offer and the backstory told in the flashbacks is rich and satisfying, but it didn’t have the thematically substantial resolution it deserved. These are small complaints, only glaring due to the overall quality of the book as a whole.

Once Upon A Fang In The West is one in a long line of horror westerns being released right now, but dismissing it as just one in a crowded pack would mean missing out on a very entertaining and original read. It feels like there is a lot more mileage left in this world that Dover has created and, should he care to write a follow-up, I can guarantee that I will be there on release day to find out what other adventures he has in store.

Richard Martin

Richard Martin

Reviewer

Richard Martin started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatized himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner and an inappropriate amount of books. 

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