July 19, 2017
Never Summer by Timothy Blaine tells the story of a mysterious man, Vlad, who is stricken with tuberculosis while in Japan and must return home to the United States in order to find a cure in the form of Colorado’s fabled mountain air. Categorized as a Samurai Western, Never Summer is packed with action, suspense, danger and intrigue. The thing that sets this book apart from other Westerns (that, at least, this reviewer is aware of) is the vivd and almost poetic style of the writing. This is a book where we search the soul of the main character, who himself asks a lot of philosophical questions. There are moments where you think you might be reading a parable; one featuring six-shooters, painted ladies and more than one epic showdown.
As a character, Vlad is a deep-layered, introspective warrior with a seemingly noble heart girding a dark secret and a set of lungs that are killing him. When we meet him, he is arriving in Manhattan from Japan, and at first his past is mired in mystery. Through his interactions with others on his way and flashbacks to his time in Japan, we eventually learn about Vlad’s dark past. It quickly becomes clear that a bacterial disease is not the only affliction from which Vlad suffers, and a heavy emotional weight weighs on him. As he travels across the US, Vlad carves a path through his past that allows him to confront some of his demons. Without giving away too much of the ending, Vlad finds some redemption while also learning that some things can’t be easily changed about one’s own nature or one’s own destiny.
Never Summer is well-written and well-edited, and kept me interested from beginning to end. There were a few points where the poetic language seemed to stifle the action of the book, particularly when the author uses a lot of adjectives in a short amount of time, but these minor problems did not take me out of the story. This is a book that takes an (albeit unknowing) student of The Book of Five Rings and sets them on the Oregon Trail, and that alone should make this worth a look. Fans of westerns and samurai literature will be most at-home here, but this book will likely appeal to an even wider audience. 5 stars.