By Duncan Eagleson
Pink Narcissus Press
Kindle, 372 pages. © 2014
Bay City is haunted by a supernatural serial killer the newsfeeds have named “The Beast.” City Boss Micah Roth calls on the Railwalkers—a shamanic Order trained in both clerical and warrior skills—to champion his cause and return the city to some semblance of safety. Railwalker Wolf and his crew answer the call, but this Beast is unlike anything they’ve seen, putting all their skills to the ultimate test. Each crew member will pay a price, but what Wolf uncovers during their investigation will test the limits of his courage and commitment.
Darkwalker gives the reader a glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world, generations after the crash of civilization. Things are different here. New norms are long since established, one of which is the accepted presence of Railwalkers–clergy trained in esoteric ways who travel from city to city and town to town, crossing the wastes in between to bring spiritual guidance and healing to those in need. Railwalkers are priests who preside at seasonal festivals, appease the land spirits where necessary, and look for answers from shades of the dead when a mystery arrives. But they are also warriors, protecting others from paranormal threats and dangers. The biggest mystery in Darkwalker is the Beast—not just who he is, but why and how he does what he does. The detective work of nailing down the Beast’s identity and motives reveals more than Wolf expected, bringing a surprise not just about his opponent but also about himself.
This is a multi-perspective story, with the reader seeing turns of events from various character viewpoints. Each chapter is named for its point-of-view character. Even the Beast gets his own chapters, some of which are deeply creepy. While all the characters felt well-developed to me, Wolf (the main character) was my favorite. He is chivalrous, spiritual, honorable, and practical. But he’s not perfect. He doesn’t have everything figured out. He’s sometimes uncertain. He doubts himself from time to time. He doesn’t always accomplish what he intended, at least not in the way he expected to do so. These “weaknesses” only make him a stronger character and I like that he thinks outside the standard parameters when solving a problem.
While I enjoyed every part of this story, my favorite element was the presence of magic, spirituality, and “otherness” laced throughout. It was clear to me that the author knows contemporary magical and spiritual practices in the nature-based community. As a reader who has spent much time in that world myself, it was validating to see them so well-represented on the pages of Darkwalker.
Eagleson’s writing style is succinct. I saw very little fluff or florid prose. Every word serves a purpose and moves the story along nicely. There is violence on the page in several scenes, but it felt balanced to me, necessary to the storyline, and not gratuitous at all. Overall, this was a good read, one I enjoyed a great deal. If you enjoy urban fantasy with a healthy sprinkling of down-to-Earth magic, you may want to check it out.