The Legend of Charlie Fish

Tachyon. Jul. 2023. 192p. ISBN 9781616963941. pap. $16.95. FANTASY
DEBUT Rountree’s debut novel serves as an ode to Texas storytellers such as Joe Lansdale and dark-fantasy spinners such as Guillermo del Toro. The story centers on a found family on their way to Galveston, TX. Along with taciturn carpenter Floyd Betts, there are two orphan children: Hank, whose mouth is as fast as his revolver, and Nellie, a girl with mind-reading powers. Nellie’s powers let her communicate with Charlie Fish, a fish man who says little, loves smoking, and wants very badly to go back to his home in the ocean. Following this group are two scoundrels who want to capture and exhibit Charlie—and a hurricane that will destroy Galveston. Rountree offers some excellent descriptions, and his characters are as folksy and complex as any created by Larry McMurtry or Louis L’Amour. The seemingly rushed ending, however, might disappoint readers who have fallen in love with the world Rountree has imagined; it’s a painful realization that their journey through his world is ending.
VERDICT Rountree’s colorful palette brings together Western and fantasy elements to create a magical tale about the deep bonds forged by circumstance.
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