His son, that’s who. Ever since his father’s arrest for the murder of Little Red Riding Hood, teen wolf Henry Whelp has kept a low profile in a Home for Wayward Wolves . . . until a murder at the Home leads Henry to believe his father may have been framed.
Now, with the help of his kleptomaniac roommate, Jack, and a daring she-wolf named Fiona, Henry will have to venture deep into the heart of Dust City: a rundown, gritty metropolis where fairydust is craved by everyone-and controlled by a dangerous mob of Water Nixies and their crime boss leader, Skinner.
Can Henry solve the mystery of his family’s sinister past? Or, like his father before him, is he destined for life as a big bad wolf?” [Publisher's Summary]
What I’m about to ask you to do won’t be a hardship, I promise: Take a look at that cover. It’s menacing, layered in shades of noir, and the story it fronts is very nearly as delicious.
With Dust City, Weston has taken and twisted classic fairy tales, skillfully skirting the cutesy line, to produce a sort of coming of age story that is charmingly dark and devious. And he did so with more than a passing nod towards hardboiled mystery and all of that genre’s wonderful, grin-inducing tropes. For example:
…The room is populated with a handful of the usual suspects: globs, wolves, foxes, dwarves, and ravens, with a few seedy-looking humans tossed in for variety. In one corner, a band of mangy cats plays melancholy jazz.
My eyes search for a trapdoor, a secret tunnel, anything to indicate this place is a portal to an illegal hideaway. But it’s just a sad-looking room full of sad-looking folks. It’s an early indication that my father’s fairy fantasies are nothing but bunk.
The bartender is a thin goblin (a rare trait). Nobody’s ordering anything, so he’s standing there in classic barkeep style: legs akimbo, while polishing a glass. I step up to the bar with false confidence. “I’m here for the, uh…” I arch my brow suggestively. “You know.”
“No,” he says. “I don’t.”¹
Spurned on by the hope of learning the truth behind his father’s crime, Henry is thrown into the role of private investigator, going undercover to ferret out information. The thing is: He has absolutely no idea what he is doing. And he knows it. So he fakes it, arching his brow suggestively. (Which just might be one of his most endearing character traits. Not the eyebrow bit. The gamely bulldozing his way through any given situation bit.) Because in spite of his disbelief, and despite the mixed feelings thoughts of his father arouse, Henry gave his word to get to the bottom of what landed his dad in the big house, and that’s what he’s going to do. He’s got the I-walk-alone, hardboiled detective’s code of honor down pat.
Adding to the noir vibe is the atmosphere and setting, which is dark and shadowy, full of dust and dirt and streetlamps, and a preponderance of dank alleys and seedy buildings. Dust City is a visual, tactile place that I would never want to find myself in literally, but imaginatively? It pushed my buttons in a very good way.
As much as the angle caught my fancy, there’s more to Dust City than the mystery. For all its pretty, look-ma-it’s-magic nature, dust is a drug; it’s addictive, peddled on the street, and can bring out the worst in the user. It may be taken medicinally, and it may bring fleeting happiness, but there are always complications, and the cons too often outweigh the pros of using it. Henry also encounters a virulent prejudice in Eden, a city that hovers above Dust City; thinking about the consequences of such hate further matures Henry, and so by novel’s end he’s not the conflicted cub he once was.
From the first paragraph – Once upon a time, fairydust came from where you’d expect it. I was only a cub, so I don’t remember much of what the City was like back then. But I have a strong sense that things were different. Dreams could come true… – I was hooked. And Robert Paul Weston delivered an imaginative, unputdownable story with the sentence and pages that followed.
|Reviews Around the Blogosphere:
Karin’s Book Nook
Quill & Quire
|Author Web Site | Blog | Book’s Site|
|If you’re interested: “Dust City: Evolutions of the Cover“|
An Aside: Mostly I consider myself an on the ball reader; plot twists and clever tricks are like deer in my headlights: That’s right, I saw you from a mile away. But Dust City brought into sharp focus why I’ve lately been in a reading slump because it took several chapters and getting smacked in the face with a beanstalk before I realized who Jack was. I mean…come on: A human boy known to have klepto tendencies? And his name was Jack. For Pete’s sake, was I not paying attention at all in kindergarten that I could so easily forget that whole fee-fi-foe-fum schtick? (It didn’t matter that I saw through Cindy the minute she sashayed into the room, either.) And so my headlights now boast a shameful new sticker: Will fail at the most absurd time, proceed at a humble pace.