Apr 23 2014 4:00pm

Weird Conspiracy on the Range: Peacemaker by Marianne de Pierres

Peacemaker Marianne de PierresVirgin Jackson is a park ranger, but not just for any park. She is responsible for making sure Birrimun Park in Australia remains a crime-free zone. It is, after all, the largest natural landscape in the world of this near future world, so her job is no small thing. When Virgin notices a couple of unsavory individuals in the park—unsavory individuals with guns who have entered the park by no means she can immediately determine—Marianne de Pierres’s Peacemaker kicks into full gear.

Told from Virgin’s point of view, de Pierres’s narrative is very intimate. We see everything through her eyes, including the United States Marshall assigned to shadow her on the strange goings-on at the park, Nate Sixkiller. (Yeah, just go with the name). He comes across as polite and mannered in a classic cowboy sort of fashion, yet quite stoic and unbending.

Virgin begins seeing her imaginary friend/pet, an eagle named Aquila, which she hasn’t seen since she was a kid. More peculiar than Aquilla's sudden reappearance is the fact that Sixkiller can see the supposedly imaginary beast. So what begins as a crime novel set in a western landscape gains additional layers with spirit animals coming to life, which may or may not be part of conspiracy group attempting to spread influence not just in Australia, but globally.

The frenetic pacing of the novel very much aligned with the mashed-up genre elements. Although it is chaotic, and Virgin is barely able to keep up with everything thrown at her, all the story’s ingredients works well together. On the surface, throwing all these themes and elements together would seem a risky venture on de Pierrres' part. As the novel progressed; however, everything fit together in such a way that Peacemaker would have been a lesser novel without each of these seemingly disparate elements.

Virgin Jackson is a very well-rounded character: she’s successful in her chosen vocation, she’s got a romantic life and friends, etc. In some ways she reminds me a bit of the character Kate Beckett from Castle, as both are fierce, strong women who followed in their father’s footsteps. Because we are literally in Virgin’s head, we get a better sense of her relationship to her father. He died under mysterious circumstances, and she has carried on in his place, seeing the park preserved and safe. Virgin is much more than a simple “action girl,” however. Virgin isn’t perfect or invincible—while she does take part in her fair share of daring moments, she is also rescued from danger equally. Much to her consternation, Sixkiller happens to be the one saving her at times.

Sixkiller and Virgin come together under forced circumstances, not unlike the characters in buddy cop movies such as Lethal Weapon. While the pair in Peacemaker isn’t quite Riggs and Murtaugh, their sensibilities do come into conflict enough during the narrative to build an ample amount of tension. Their growing respect for each other, which might fall just short of admiration for one of these two, felt true and earned over the course of the novel.

As the novel draws to a close and the mystery is nearly solved, de Pierres throws a curve-ball that opens the door for what could potentially be many more stories about Virgin Jackson. It doesn’t quite change what came before in the novel as much as it sets the table for what could potential come ahead. This is the first novel by Marianne de Pierres I’ve read, and I hope to read more about Virgin Jackson and (perhaps) Nate Sixkiller. A fun romp that is much more than the parts which comprise it.


Peacemaker is available April 29th from Angry Robot.

Rob Bedford lives in NJ with his wife and dog. Some have called him a trickster of a character. He reviews books and moderates forums at SFFWorld, has a blog about stuff and writes “The Completist” column for SF Signal. You can follow him on Twitter: @RobHBedford if you want to read random thoughts about books, TV, his dog, beer, and whatever else catches his fancy.

Bruce Arthurs
1. bruce-arthurs
Rob, you seem to feel that "Sixkiller" is too precious and coy a name for a character.

As it happens, one of the nurses in my wife's rheumatologist's office has the family name of Sixkiller. She's Native-American, which makes me wonder: Is the novel's Nate Sixkiller supposed to have an aboriginal background?
2. rea
"Sixkiller" is a traditional Cherokee name . . .
Robert H. Bedford
3. RobB
Hmm...didn't intend to come across so dismissive. You learn something everyday.

To me the name Sixkiller sounds like a character who walked off the set of an old cowboy movie. Not a bad thing, mind.
4. Marianne de Pierres
Hi Rob, thanks for the review!

I don't usually reply to reviews but I thought you might find this interesting. (As Bruce-Arthurs and Rea have said) The Sixkiller name is quite famous in Cherokee history. I had a relative of Sam Sixkiller contact me when I first started writing this story, offering to provide information. I explained that it was a fiction novel (and I was being careful not to try and emulate real life), but it was very, very cool to hear from them. From what I've been able to find out, Sam Sixkiller was an extraordinary man.

I spent the whole novel trying to maintain a balance between recreating a dime western and writing something MORE - something fantastical. It's been fascinating to see the reactions to that. In a way, I guess the people who will enjoy this series most are those who have a knowledge of the Western genre, and can see how I've both messed with, and honoured, it.

best wishes
Marianne de Pierres
Robert H. Bedford
5. RobB
4. Marianne de Pierres ....I spent the whole novel trying to maintain a balance between recreating a dime western and writing something MORE - something fantastical.
Well, you succeeded. The balance came across as one of things that looked seamless but I suspect wasn't easy behind the scenes, so to speak.
If nothing else from these comments, I've received a bit of an education....which is very cool.
Sean Tabor
6. wingracer
Found a brief wiki page for Sam Sixkiller. Sounds like a goldmine of good semi-fictional western story ideas to me. Very interesting.

Rob, I would have had the same reaction to the name if I hadn't read these comments first. I probably would have thought something like "what is this, a bad anime?"

Sounds like an intersting read. I'm going to have to check this one out.
Robert H. Bedford
7. RobB
The education continues...

Thanks wingracer. The book is indeed lots of fun.
8. Nu
Sorry, I'm slow today. Does that mean that Nate _isn't_ from a Cherokee background...?
9. Marianne de Pierres
Hi Nu,

the inference is that he has Cherokee heritage but I don't ever directly tie him to anyone in 'real' history.

I'm going to blog about it on the AR site soon, and that might explain it better.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment