UK Publisher: Hot Key Books
In the small town of sand, populated by gunslingers and surrounded by endless desert, Imma washes dishes and grieves for a life she never had. She and her brother, Nikko, dreamed of escaping to become bullet catchers, a legendary band of outlaws who can deflect bullets with their hands. But they were wiped out years ago, Nikko with them. And leaving is impossible when walking into the desert means certain death.
When she sees a stranger catch a man’s bullet and turn it back on him, Imma knows it can only mean one thing: the bullet catchers live on, and this is her way out.
Determined to follow him, Imma starts a journey that will take her to her physical extremes and force her to question just what family means and who she really is: bullet catcher or gunslinger; hero or monster.
Being a YA Western with a slight pinch of fantasy, the premise of the Bullet Catcher instantly caught my attention. And while I must admit, although the book didn't wow me quite the way I had hoped, there were still plenty of things to like.
Imma is an orphan, barely surviving as a dishwasher in the middle of a small, barely-on-the-map desert town. But when she witnesses a stranger catch a gunslingers bullet—she discovers that the legendary bullet catches aren't as extinct as everyone believed. Now with nothing to lose but her life, Imma sets out on a journey through the desert, determined to become a bullet catcher herself. But convincing the bullet catcher she is worthy to be trained is another matter… and as secrets are uncovered, Imma will learn that her childhood heroes may just turn out to be monsters after all…
This was such an intriguing book. The story is based around the bonds of friendship built between teacher and student, brother and sister, young minds and old… there is no romance whatsoever. This alone made the story a refreshing read. However this book also explored the darker themes of forgiveness vs revenge, and showed that every action has a consequence.
For example Imma is a very unusual heroine. Everything that happens to her is generally because of a choice SHE made, and for the most part she learns from her mistakes and grows a little more with every decision. However as much as I liked her as a character, I often felt she failed to ask the right sort of questions, which therefore led her to trust the wrong people and make bad choices.
That said, the plot was fast paced and kept me turning the pages. However when Imma’s brother, Nikko, enters the story, I kept waiting for Imma to be all, “Where have you been these last ten years? Why didn't you come back for me?” — but she never did. For me this was a HUGE underlying niggle throughout the rest of the story. From that point on I also found Imma to be too placid, and a little sheep like. Brotherly love is one thing, but I disliked how she blindly followed Nikko and accepted everything he said so easily.
Of course the action picks up again at the end of the book, and I was happy when Imma seemed to get her old feistiness back. However I really think it was the western style backdrop, plus the life or death situation of the bullet catcher that really kept the story moving forward. Without these things the book actually had little world building or backstory, or much depth at all really.
As a reader, I’m big on understanding the why behind everything. Why are the bullet catchers and gunslingers enemies? What started it all? Why doesn't Imma question her brother? Why does the bullet catcher withhold his name? Why can bullet catchers bend bullets? Is it really just a case of trying hard? With these questions left unanswered, I felt the book read well on the surface, but lacked a little in the foundations.
All in all though, this was a nice afternoon read and certainly something I would recommend for those in search of something a bit different. 3.5 stars!