Western Weird: “The Curse of Jacob Tracy”

19283155The Curse of Jacob Tracy by Holly Messinger
Thomas Dunne Book: December 1, 2015
Genre: Western; Historical Fiction
Source: Free From Library

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The Curse of Jacob Tracy is the first in a new series, featuring a former seminary student/soldier.

Death constantly lives in the shadow of Jacob Tracy. After surviving the Civil War, Trace discovered that he could see ghosts; this was not a gift that he wanted and each time he tells someone about this gift they die. So, when Miss Sabine Fairweather asks for his assistance and claims to be able to help Trace with his gift, Trace is understandably wary.

Trace has lived for years repressing his ability to see and speak with ghosts. Trace has always believed that his gift was a curse and does his best to ignore it. After starting to do the odd jobs for Miss Fairweather, Trace finds his powers increasing and changing all the while Miss Fairweather tempts him with her knowledge. However, Trace refuses to succumb to the temptation that Miss Fairweather presents, instead running off only to discover that he has been targeted by another man with powers, Merek. It seems that the mysterious and secretive Miss Fairweather is Trace’s only chance for answers, and she needs him just as much as he needs her. 

The Curse of Jacob Tracy is a difficult book to review because while I liked parts of the book, I wasn’t crazy about pacing. For me, Jacob Tracy came across as episodic rather than a continuous, flowing plot; this was a style that did not work for me. In addition, I found Jacob Tracy to be plot-heavy and I was left wanting to know more about the characters of the book. This is a book that is most likely to appeal to readers who enjoy detailed descriptions and more emphasis on actions of characters rather than the psychology of the characters themselves.

What I did like about Jacob Tracy was the combination of the Western genre with fantasy elements. In many ways Jacob Tracy is what I think of as a Western. There’s trouble with the law, long rides on horseback, and working on a farm. The twist is that the author seamlessly combines those known elements with the unknown. In this world there are ghosts, there are vampires, and there are werewolves, and Trace is at the centre of that world with his strong abilities. This paranormal world is something that Trace is discovering for the first time, and with that readers are treated to a great introduction in the existence of fantastic beings into a seemingly mundane setting. The contrast between the normal and the paranormal was set up perfectly and acted as a mirror of Trace’s own inner conflict about which world he wanted to be part of.

So, while I have conflicted feelings about The Curse of Jacob Tracy, I did appreciate it for as a genre-bending read. Readers are introduces to a tentative hero reluctant to take on a larger role, the woman pushing him to accept said larger role, and the big bad that wants to take Trace’s powers for his own. The Curse of Jacob Tracy is a solid first installment that sets the stage for book two, Curious Weather (out in March 2017).

 Similar Reads

If you enjoyed the combination of the Western elements with the fantastical, Devon Monk’s Age of Steam series is an excellent follow-up. Like Jacob Tracy, Monk’s series follows an older hero that struggling with his abilities and tortured by the past. Start with book one, Dead Iron.

Dead Iron (Age of Steam, #1)

Wake of Vultures is a Western styled story that I would recommend to fans of Messinger’s tone. While Wake of Vultures is a young adult read, I think it looks as some of the same themes as Jacob Tracey. Like Trace, Nettie discovers that she has some odd abilities and sets forth on a journey to discover the truth.

Wake of Vultures (The Shadow, #1)

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