"The Arrivals" by Melissa Marr (William Morrow)

Washington writer Melissa Marr, who created the fairy realms of the best-selling “Wicked Lovely series for teens , now brings us her second novel for adults . In a purgatory-like Western setting that is sprinkled with swarms of deadly insects and lizards large enough to be ridden rodeo-style .

The human characters come from various periods of history. None of them, not even Jack Reed and his sister, Katherine, who have been in the Wasteland for over two decades, know how they were brought into this odd reality — or why. The only thing they have in common with the other Arrivals is that they have all killed at least one person in their former lives.

A rival faction is headed by the disturbingly well-mannered Ajani. The two gangs compete to win over every new soul that enters the Wasteland whenever one of the old Arrivals dies. And Ajani has a great sales pitch: Once you join his band, you can never be killed.

Many strange characters wander the desert and populate the little towns in this novel: batlike miners, monks with the power to conjure demons, and alien temptresses in brothels. The most fascinating of these creatures are the bloedzuigers (bloodsuckers), who can strengthen and heal others with their blood. Their leader can even channel his spirit through messengers.

The varied ways these characters from different periods (ranging from the 1800s through 2010) view one another add interest, and there’s some good sexual tension among them, too, but the supernatural aspects of the story are more exciting. When Arrivals die, for instance, they may or may not come back to life on the sixth day — and no one knows why.

In the end, though, “The Arrivals” seems to be not so much a story in itself as the introduction to a series. Still, fans of the Weird West genre will appreciate the adventures in the Wasteland. Original and quirky, it’s a fun summer read.


By Melissa Marr

Morrow. 278 pp. $24.99