The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent is a work of historical fiction set in Texas. It’s about prostitutes, Texas Rangers, and the search for Pirate Treasure. It’s basically a Western.
Why I Picked It Up
I saw it weeks before the holidays and I meant to give it a try, but I only got round to picking it up yesterday. A major reason why I chose this book is it is set in Texas.
Texas is my home state and, while it has some bad political press from time to time, it’s got a fascinating history. Plus, I’ve been to many of the settings in this book, after just having read the sample. It says they make it to Louisiana later, and that’s cool, too.
What I Liked About It
There’s a nice Prologue which sets up the pirate’s treasure bit–very understated and reading a lot like a fairy tale.
Then the book proper opens with a careful exploration of one of our heroine’s major weaknesses–“the palsy.” Basically, she is periodically gripped by seizures for which no amount of laudanum or tincture of mercury will fix. She gets hit with one just as the book opens, which is nice exposition, and the author uses some very nice sensory imagery which let me feel the seizure along with our MC.
The opening does stretch a bit for my taste (I’ll talk about that later) but once the plot kicks in, I’m hooked and we’re following our MC on a cross Texas flight from her brothel.
Kent also does a good job utilizing the language of the period and setting the scene with all the little immersive details so her voice really builds the world.
What Could Be Better
As I mentioned earlier, the opening drags on a little for my taste. After our MC’s seizure, she packs a bag and the narrator talks about failed treatments for her “palsy.” It was losing me until I read the hints at prostitution. I wasn’t hooked, but my interest was piqued, so I read on until I got hooked as she was escaping from the brothel.
This may have to do with the way I read; in talking with another from my writing group, I realized (again) that I often disregard jacket synopses, titles, chapter headings, and other “literary roadsigns” as I read. As our MC’s flight from brothel-indentures is clearly spelled out on the summary, I may have been hooked early on, but I still wish it was explicitly addressed, perhaps BEFORE the seizure. This would have ratcheted up the tension and provided a hook early on.
Result: I WANT TO READ IT
I’ve got a pretty big reading list now, and I’m reviewing less because I’m finishing more, but I’d like to add this book to the list. As with everything, if I finish it, I’ll post a follow up.
Have you read The Outcasts? And what are your thoughts on my neglect of titles and such? Let me know in the comments!