Book Review : The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow

Book Review : The Last Stand of Mary Good CrowThe Last Stand of Mary Good Crow (The Crystal Calamity, #1) by Rachel Aaron
Published by Aaron/Bach on June 1st 2022
Pages: 522
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Deadwood meets The Lord of the Rings in this Epic Fantasy of the West!
Hungry darkness, haunted guns, tunnels that move like snakes—the crystal mines of Medicine Rocks, Montana are a place only the bravest and greediest dare. Discovered in 1866, the miraculous rock known as crystal quickly rose to become the most expensive substance on the planet, driving thousands to break the treaties and invade the sacred buffalo lands of the Sioux. But mining crystal risks more than an arrow in the chest. The beautiful rock has a voice of its own. A voice that twists minds and calls unnatural powers.
A voice that turns men into monsters.
Mary Good Crow hears it. Half white, half Lakota, rejected by both, she’s forged a new life guiding would-be miners through the treacherous caves. To her ears, the crystal sings a beautiful song, one the men she guides would gladly burn her as a witch for hearing. So, when an heiress from Boston arrives with a proposition that could change her life, Mary agrees to push deeper into the caves than she’s ever dared.
But there are secrets buried in the Deep Caves that even Mary doesn’t know. The farther she goes, the closer she gets to the voice that’s been calling her all this time. A voice that could change the bloody story of the West, or destroy it all.

As I’ve said time and time again, author Rachel Aaron is one of my favorites. She’s on my very short list of authors that I pre-order books for and is always the one I turn to when I need a fun read, as her books never fail to serve as pick-me-up. Despite how much I love the author’s work, I was a little hesitant to pick up The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow as westerns really aren’t my thing. But I needn’t have worried, as like all of Aaron’s books, The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow is a unique and fun ride with lovable characters and interesting world building. 


“Medicine Rocks is no place for honest men, and speaking frankly, miss, I don’t think you should stay here either. I know this is your inheritance, but between the redskins taking scalps and the bandits taking everything else, this town’s a death sentence waiting to happen. I’m not presuming to tell you your business, but we’d be more than happy to take you back with us to Helena if you want.”


I really enjoyed that The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow follows three female characters with very different lifestyles, who wind up in the mining town of Medicine Rocks. Mary Good Crow herself can hear the magic crystals growing in the caves and serves as tour guide into the dangerous mines, though it’s quite risky for her as not only a woman, but also as a half Native American in the late 1800s. Mary is hired on by Josephine “Josie” Price, the sheltered but whip smart heir to a mining fortune, and a notorious gun-for-hire known as Rel, who is also Josie’s childhood friend View Spoiler ». There is more to each of these characters than meets the eye, but they manage to form a fast friendship in the face of the dangers of the mine and the challenges of the time period they live in.


Living in the west during the crystal—not gold—rush in a mining town is anything but safe for any woman. It’s especially dangerous for Mary, as racism against Native Americans is at an all time high. Not able to pass for white, and raised by French nuns (the French also aren’t cared for much), Mary lives in the caves, with only the sound of the crystals for companionship, until Josie and Rel come along. Even venturing into town and trying to buy food is enough to get the poor girl shot at it. Josie, despite appearing to be living the high life that comes with money, is very sympathetic to both Mary, and her friend Rel.


The friendship between these three unlikely characters is really endearing to me. Though Mary wants to save the crystals from being strip-mined and destroyed, she still honors her agreement with Josie. And though Rel has more motivation to help his childhood friend than meets the eye, he still manages to keep them all safe. Likewise, Josie Price, who wants to make a fortune off of the crystals, thinks of the pain it will cause her new crystal-loving friend Mary. I immediately was very interested in Josie, who seems very unlike other heiresses to fortunes. And it turns out, there’s a reason for that, which I won’t spoil here, but I wondered at how easily the woman was able to pull off everything she does.


I was really afraid I’d be bored reading a Western, but The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow is continually exciting what with its mysteries surrounding the backgrounds and abilities of the characters combined with the strange magic of the crystals and the dangerous and otherworldly caves they reside in, as well as the appearances of historical figures like General Custer. It doesn’t hurt that I can’t help but find the crystals and their magical properties very interesting. In this world, crystals, not gold or silver or cash, are the most lucrative item in existence, and for good reason. People are just discovering all of the possibilities of these items—ingesting them to speak with the dead, to shoot faster or to gain other super powers, or surgically implanting them as rods to save lives, and forging them into stronger weapons. 


To the horror of the military stationed at Medicine Rock, the Lakota have been spotted with crystal enhanced arrows and other types of weapons, adding a military fervor in the background of everything else going on in The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow.  Though reading through the viewpoint of Lucas, a higher up in the military, was by far the least interesting out of all the perspectives to me, the character is poised to detail the growing tension and hysteria in the armed forces. If the military weren’t stressed enough by their inability to meet their crystal quota and by the fall of General Custer and his forces at Little Bighorn to the Lakota, there’s rumors that the Native Americans have a way of growing crystal, rather than ripping it through the walls and irreparably damaging it like Americans. Throughout the entirety of The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow runs the themes of greed, bigotry, environmental concerns, and manifest destiny. 


“Imagine discovering the most valuable new resource of the century and then ruining the whole thing through your own incompetence?” 

“Never underestimate the potency of ignorance mixed with greed,” Rel said, walking through the crack folks had hammered through the rear of the ruined cavern to keep the crystal search going.


Plus, there might just be more to the singing of the crystals that Mary hears. And the caves where the crystals grow are anything but typical. There’s an area known as the Dark, which makes it impossible to see or hear anything, and it moves. The rest of the caves seem to never open to the same area twice, and there’s mysterious entities both haunting the caves, sometimes  even sabotaging miners hunting for a profit, as well as bandits lurking to steal what others try to haul back to the surface. It’s an entirely different universe in the caves down there, and utterly cool to me that Mary Good Crow has managed to become so at home in such a dark and dangerous place. 


In every way, the world of The Last Stand Of Mary Good Crow is so fascinating and unique, very much like all of the other worlds in author Rachel Aaron’s works. Honestly, I feel pretty silly that I even worried that anything this author had written might not appeal to me, or could ever be boring. I will be purchasing any follow ups to The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow on day one for sure. If you like westerns, alternate history, fantasy, or very unique world-building and magical systems, as well as complex characters, I would highly recommend this novel to you. 


Book Review : The Last Stand of Mary Good Crow - Blogging with Dragons

Posted June 17, 2022 in Book Reviews, Fantasy


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