The best dark fantasy Westerns with magic and gunslingers

Who am I?

My life quest has been to find true magic. Once believing it could only be uncovered in ruins or cathedrals continents away, I ended up discovering it in my own backyard under the Big Sky. When I was young, I read everything science fiction and fantasy to feel like that magic was real and bask in worlds far different from my own. Now, as a professional editor and author based in the West… I still read everything science fiction and fantasy, but now I get paid to do it.


I wrote...

I Have Asked to Be Where No Storms Come

By Gwendolyn N. Nix,

Book cover of I Have Asked to Be Where No Storms Come

What is my book about?

The facts of Domino's afterlife are simple: he's a half-breed witch from a people without a name, living out a cursed Butch Cassidy existence… and no one wants to be stuck in Hell with witch blood. When he discovers demonic bounty hunters are on his tail, he is shocked to learn they were hired by his brother. Wicasah, wielding insurmountable power, has struck an ill-made bargain with an ancient being of lighting and thunder to resurrect Domino from his terrible fate. Yet, the two discover an even darker power resides within a fractured United States, one that will stop at nothing to be released. Desperate to escape their own destinies, the two must decide if they will save the world… or let it burn.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Gunslinger

Gwendolyn N. Nix Why did I love this book?

Dark americana fantasy at its finest—even though the book worked hard to win me over, that memorable line, “There are more worlds than these,” sunk its teeth in me. It promised a wild west unknown at the time where gunslingers were heroic knights, and a black-robed magician created chaos across the realms. I devoured the series on my lunch breaks in the summer, enraptured with a gritty western that folded like a Doctor Strange multiverse, opening my eyes to that the “wild west” could be so much more when asked, “But what if…?” 

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Gunslinger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Dark Tower is now a major motion picture starring Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba.

'The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.' The iconic opening line of Stephen King's groundbreaking series, The Dark Tower, introduces one of his most enigmatic and powerful heroes: Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger.

Roland is a haunting figure, a loner, on a spellbinding journey toward the mysterious Dark Tower, in a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own.

On his quest, Roland begins a friendship with a kid from New York named Jake, encounters an alluring woman and faces…


Book cover of American Hippo: River of Teeth, Taste of Marrow, and New Stories

Gwendolyn N. Nix Why did I love this book?

A reimagining of how one decision could change the American landscape… why Thomas Jefferson decided against introducing hippopotamuses to the swamps and marshes of the American South, I’ll never know. But Sarah Gailey gives us a glimpse into this alternative history and it is full of water bearers as fearsome and loyal as any war horse. Reading this in one sitting on a plane ride, I was fascinated by how vastly differentand dangerousthe Mississippi bayous could be when full of a certain shady type of gunslinger creeping through the water with Spanish moss hanging overhead. I suspect if I were alive in this alternative timeline, I might’ve ended up seeking my fortune by holding up a steamboat… especially if I had a hippo as my trusty companion.   

By Sarah Gailey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked American Hippo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 2017 Sarah Gailey made her debut with River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow, two action-packed novellas that introduced readers to an alternate America in which hippos rule the colossal swamp that was once the Mississippi River. Now readers have the chance to own both novellas in a single, beautiful volume.

Years ago, in an America that never was, the United States government introduced herds of hippos to the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This plan failed to take into account some key facts about hippos: they are savage, they are…


Book cover of A Book of Tongues

Gwendolyn N. Nix Why did I love this book?

A brutal tale set after the Civil War, this setting is as much a character as the morally graysometimes downright black-heartedwitches, gods, and hexslingers roaming within it. I wondered how the author made a book so metal: Old Testament bible verses magicked into savage spellwork, a Mesoamerican goddess roping hanged men into her service, and, of course, a government plot to harness such hexwork for its own expansionist and colonial aims. Different beliefs rub shoulders here in a visceral and refreshing waya slice of the melting pot America still defines itself with, even in a dark fantasy version. Sacrifice is the name of the game here. Just how far should you go for power? For love, even? If you’re a hexslinger, the answer is pretty far.

By Gemma Files,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Book of Tongues as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Gemma Files has one of the great dark imaginations in fiction visionary, transgressive, and totally original." -Jeff VanderMeer

In Gemma Files's "boundary-busting horror-fantasy debut," former Confederate chaplain Asher Rook has cheated death and now possesses a dark magic (Publishers Weekly). He uses his power to terrorize the Wild West, leading a gang of outlaws, thieves, and killers, with his cruel lieutenant and lover, Chess Pargeter, by his side.

Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow is going undercover to infiltrate the gang, armed with a shotgun and a device that measures sorcerous energy. His job is to gain knowledge of Rook's power and…


Book cover of Six-Gun Snow White

Gwendolyn N. Nix Why did I love this book?

I read this when my son was born, looking for a familiar story in more ways than one. This imported classic European fairy tale has our gunslinging Snow White escaping to the wild west and feels like a new comfort fable… if replacing dark twisted forests for a wind-whipped big sky can be comforting. It’s a story that doesn’t know how to end, or even if it should endmaking it another facet to join numerous retellings. The Huntsman becomes a Pinkerton, the dwarves now a band of women on the run, and the Prince a melancholy expression of America’s history where many have no voice. It’s a bit cerebral and reveals heart-wrenching lessons when reflected on current times. Which, I suppose, is the purpose of a fable, right?

By Catherynne M. Valente, Charlie Bowater (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Six-Gun Snow White as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestselling author offers a brilliant reinvention of one of the best-known fairy tales of all time with Snow White as a gunslinger in the mythical Wild West.

Forget the dark, enchanted forest. Picture instead a masterfully evoked Old West where you are more likely to find coyotes as the seven dwarves. Insert into this scene a plain-spoken, appealing narrator who relates the history of our heroine’s parents—a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. Although her mother’s life ended…


Book cover of The Six-Gun Tarot

Gwendolyn N. Nix Why did I love this book?

A serious Welcome To The Nightvale-styled western, Golgotha is like any other mining town… except full of writhing demonic worms desperate to possess you. So many legends and religions rub elbows in this saloon-heavy godforsaken place that it feels like any re-imagined version of a dark fantasy americana world, warts and all, is possible. Each character threatened to whisk me on a new journey. I mean, there’s a doctor who can keep severed heads alive? A boy with a mysterious green eye? An unkillable gunslinger sheriff? An angel running a casino? An assassin queen? What is even happening? But all this allowed my imagination to flourish. Instead of spelling out the reasoning for the clashing magic and lore, it reminded me why I love speculative fiction in the first place: the possibilities. 

By R. S. Belcher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Six-Gun Tarot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town hiding more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. And a shady saloon owner, fingers in everyone's business, may know more about the town's origins than he's letting on. Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient…


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The Fornax Assassin

By J.C. Gemmell,

Book cover of The Fornax Assassin

J.C. Gemmell Author Of The Fornax Assassin

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Inclusive What-if worrier Eco-warrior Mountain trekker Ten-mile runner

J.C.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In 2038 a devastating pandemic sweeps across the world. Two decades later, Britain remains the epicenter for the Fornax variant, annexed by a terrified global community.

David Malik is as careful as any man to avoid contact with the virus. But when his sister tests positive as an asymptomatic carrier, she must relocate to Fornax Island to join the isolated population of contagious untreatables. Fortunately, the British prime minister’s latest manifesto includes reintegrating the islanders with the nation. Yet, he does not survive a visit to Fornax Island to unveil his new policies.

The military suspects one of its junior officers is responsible for his death. Malik seizes his chance to represent the possible assassin, allowing him to protect his sister. Yet within days of taking on the case, he finds himself accused of masterminding the assassination. 

The Fornax Assassin

By J.C. Gemmell,

What is this book about?

2038: a devastating pandemic sweeps across the world. Two decades later, Britain remains the epicentre for the fornax variant, annexed by a terrified global community.

David Malik is as careful as any man to avoid contact with the virus. But when his sister tests positive as an asymptomatic carrier, she must relocate to Fornax Island to join the isolated population of contagious-untreatables.

Fortunately, the British prime minister’s latest manifesto includes reintegrating the islanders with the nation. Yet, he does not survive a visit to Fornax Island to unveil his new policies.

The military suspects one of its junior officers is…


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