Melinda West: monster gunslinger

The first novel by KC Grifant

Melinda West: monster gunslinger, KC Grifant, Brigids Gate Press, 2023

“Somewhere here was the start of the Monster Massacre of Double Moon a hundred years ago, when the Edge appeared.” 

Melinda nodded, history lessons that Abel and Beatrice had repeated swirling in her mind. When trade opened across the plains and western oceans, newcomers from the Grand Isles arrived, some fighting to take over land from the firstcomers. But once the Edge appeared and its hordes of monsters took out a good chunk of residents, newcomers and firstcomers banded together to fight back. Since then, something changed about the Edge. The majority of creatures stopped straying into human territory, though there were plenty of exceptions, as evidenced by Melinda and Lance’s surplus of work.

Here’s Melinda: 28 years old, a monsters gunslinger who never missed a shot in her professional life, about to complete her last mission. With her, there is Lance: a sweet talker, great with weapons and ready to retire too. When we meet them for the very first time, they are fighting hard against a herd of critters that is attacking a village. The pair have been summoned by the local sheriff – ‘named Gatsum or Garry or something like that, Melinda couldn’t remember which’ – who is scared senseless, but also useless when it comes to fighting creatures that come from the Edge.

Melinda is about to take the final shot, when she stops: either the Sheriff gives them the money he promised, or she will walk. Gatsum or Garry or something like that agrees, however reluctantly. The mission is completed, money changes hands, Melinda and Lance collect some samples to take home to Aunt Beatrice, and they both call it a day on their life as monsters gunslingers.

Or so they believe.

While clearing up, Melinda notices something from the corner of her eye. It comes from a nearby mine, and her instinct tells her that, whatever it is, it deserves a closer look. Inside, in the pitch-black cave, she finds mother scorpion and dozens of her translucent baby eggs. But she also finds a stone, something as big as an acorn, silver as the moon, that hits her with a wave of vertigo as soon as she touches it, makes her fingers go numb and seems to whisper unintelligible words. Melinda collects two samples before blowing the mine off.

With one last look behind them, the two gunslingers start their journey home. It’s nice to be back to their village, reunite with Aunt Beatrice and Abel, an inventor who leaves next door and helps them in their line of work, relax, have an often dreamt of homecooked dinner and a real bed instead of beef jerky and camping for the night.

No one can imagine that this fragile euphoria will be broken so soon. Talking about their last mission, Melinda tells her Aunt about the mysterious stone she found in the cave.

“Eyestone” Beatrice gasps when Melinda shows her.

As soon as she pronounces these words, Abel becomes agitated and before he can add anything, a spider comes in through the window like a cannonball, quickly followed by many more and a red cloud of mist. Melinda is weirdly fascinated by it. There is something in there, a shape that slowly takes form, and, as unbelievable as it might seem, it’s the image of a man, but before Melinda can tell who he is, the light goes off, and when Aunt Beatrice gets the fire going, Melinda finds a spider right on her chest. Abel quickly swipes it away from her, but he gets bitten in the process, and passes out. It’s immediately clear that Abel is not just wounded, because he looks like he’s dead, even if he’s still breathing.

“What aren’t you saying?” Melinda asks Aunt Beatrice. The explanation is clear and simple: many years before, Abel was held against his will working on the railroads, and he would have done anything to get out of it. He actually did: he contacted a person that put a spell on him, a powerful one that let him see into people’s minds. In this way, Abel could persuade his guards to let him go. The spell didn’t stop working once he was freed and Abel used this power to bring peace in his country. But it also left him with a soul brighter than normal, and that is the problem: there are creatures, known as soul suckers, that feed on this type of souls. While Abel found a way to keep his aura hidden, the eyestone that Melinda brought back from her last mission neutralized this protection and left Abel vulnerable. The only hope they have to save him is to go after these soul sucker spiders and get Abel’s soul back.

And so, the journey begins. They will meet many more people, from Aine, the clairvoyant, to Angelo and Topaz the bounty hunters after Eloise, Harston the demon, and Eekuts, weird creatures similar to prairie dogs, or Snow Krakens, which are comparable to a twenty-foot octopus. They will face epic battles with Edge Raiders, a group of self-appointed guardians ensuring monsters from the Edge don’t stray too far. We will even descend into the edge itself with Melinda, a sort of Underworld where we look for our loved ones’ souls.

This book has everything one can ask for: a strong female leading character, monsters, irony, a supernatural setting, a fast pace, and a great narrative. KC is constantly in control of the narrative, she trickles new information at the right moment, just to give her readers enough to put some pieces together but not enough to stop wondering how it will all end.

I absolutely loved the prose: it’s clean, it’s linear, it’s concise but not clipped, even if it may have done with a few more descriptions, both of the environment and of the unnatural creatures. Apart from that, this book is an absolute jewel, a whirlwind of events keeping readers glued to the page and have them begging for more.

Which is, given how the book ends, highly likely.

And to be honest, here at Not For Vanity, we can’t wait to read the rest!

Get your copy now!

About KC Grifant

KC Grifant is a Southern Californian author who writes internationally published horror, fantasy, science fiction and weird west stories for podcasts, anthologies and magazines. 

Her writings have appeared in magazines and podcasts including: Andromeda Spaceways Magazine (cover story for issue #70), Unnerving Magazine, Aurealis Magazine, Fission Magazine, Cosmic Horror Monthly, Dark Matter Magazine, Tales to Terrify, the Lovecraft eZine, Sley House Podcasts, and many others. 

In addition to a Weird West horror novel, MELINDA WEST: MONSTER GUNSLINGER (Feb 2023), she has also written stories for dozens of anthologies, including: Chromophobia; Dancing in the Shadows: A Tribute to Anne Rice; Musings of the Muse; Field Notes from a Nightmare; The One That Got Away; Six Guns Straight From Hell; Trembling with Fear: Year One; Shadowy Natures; Beyond the Infinite: Tales from the Outer Reaches; and the Stoker-nominated Fright Mare: Women Write Horror.

In addition, she is a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA), as well as the co-founder of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) San Diego chapter, an organization that helps to connect writers and fans of horror literature.

All books by KC Grifant are available for purchase at:

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