Review: Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias

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In the short time I’ve been lurking on Twitter and hoovering up as much advice about writing as I can, it’s become very clear that Gabino Iglesias is one of the good guys. The dude is always dropping pearls of wisdom and reflections on his own experiences with an unfalteringly positive outlook and a compassionate sense of community. So when he released his new novel Coyote Songs to many rave reviews, I knew I had to read it. After all, you’ve got to look after the good guys, right?

I had a problem though. I’m one of those guys who can’t get into a band until I’ve checked out the back catalogue, and with Coyote Songs being the spiritual successor to Iglesias’ earlier novel, Zero Saints, I was compelled to start at the beginning. I’m glad I did.  Saints kicks off in explosive fashion. Fernando, our main guy has been jumped, beaten and thrown into the boot of a car. His role as an enforcer and drug dealer has seen him targeted by a new gang looking to make their mark in town.

After this gang murder one of our protagonist’s friends in front of him, they send him back to his own boss with a message. From there, what initially seems like a straight-up crime novel introduces tones of urban fantasy and horror as it blasts its way through the story. With Fernando narrating events, we get this heady mix of violence and faith that embeds us in a setting where spirituality and mysticism are just as at home as religion.

Along the way, there are tonnes of great characters who’d be right at home in a comic book or an exploitation film. These men and women of violent, vengeful and sometimes loving proclivity make this a thoroughly entertaining book. Although most of the prose is a textbook example of Orwell’s plain English being put to great effect, the novel includes many interludes written in Spanish. This only helped to immerse me in the novel. Sure, I chose to use the translate function on the kindle on several occasions, but it also made the world real.

As a downside, I’d have personally liked to have seen the demonic and mystical attributes of the antagonists explored in a little more detail, but with the pace of the novel, that may have bogged us down. On top of that, when you’re seeing everything through the eyes of the protagonist, the context isn’t really as important as the bad guys’ actions and their immediate threat to Fernando. I really enjoyed this and clicked that Buy It Now button on the Coyote Songs recommendation Kindle presented to me without a second thought.

If you want a fast-paced violent crime novel with a touch of mysticism and horror thrown in for good measure, you could do a lot worse than this one. It’s easily worth four stars (or, if you’re so inclined, four black-eyed demons) out of five.

Buy it here: Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias on Amazon 

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