Book Review: Dust City by Robert Paul Weston

Dust City by Robert Paul Weston is a young adult novel that is both a fractured fairy tale and a work of noir fiction. The story takes place in the world of fairy tale creatures, including animals that have evolved and become anthropomorphized, long after the fairies have disappeared. The action in this story revolves around the big, bad wolf’s son Henry who is living in a juvenile detention center for a reasonably small offense. The big, bad wolf in in prison for killing a girl and her grandmother, however even that case might not be as cut and dry as it first appears. There is a creature pulling the strings, a conspiracy involving fairy dust and some unexpected twists. If you are looking for a unique take on characters from classic stories had what the bigger picture might be for them, then this book will deliver.

Dust City is the story of Henry Whelp, the son of the murderous big, bad wolf. Henry is doing everything he can to be different from his father. He tries to tow the line, follows the rules and lies low rather than getting into the trouble that surrounds him at every turn. However, when he discovers that his psychiatrist also treated his father, and that there are larger things at work that have caused most of the deaths in his life. Henry throws caution to the wind and does whatever it takes to do the right thing in the larger picture rather than in day to day life. He is a complex character that is sensitive yet capable of violence in order to survive or protect others. He goes to work for the man in charge of all the underworld dealings in order to get a closer look at the inner workings of the seedier side of the city. Henry discovers that everything is much more intricate, and dangerous, than he ever imagined.

The world that Henry is living in is one dependent of fairy dust, or the weak manufactured substitute being used since the fairies disappeared. The inhabitants of the main part of the city include wolves, ravens, foxes and a number of other animals that have evolved enough to walk on two feet, speak and think like humans. There are also elves, goblins and a wide variety of other people and creatures that readers might have encountered in fairy tales. The more animalistic creatures are not allowed in Eden, the original home of the missing fairies, only the humanoids are allowed there. Jack, the thieving character from Jack and the Beanstalk is among one of the supporting characters. Fun use of word play and echoes of Grimm’s fairy tales make this more than a great example of nior fiction. Larger issues such as drug use, corporate and pharmaceutical greed, racism and other tough topics can be seen in the larger picture of the story, making this story a good stepping stone for discussions. The fable related mentions, word play, themes and allusions make Dust City a multi layered work that can appeal a to some of the hardest to please readers.

Dust City was a surprise to me on several levels. I picked it up off the shelves at the library based on nothing but wanted to read something a little different from an author I had never read. I am extremely glad that I did read it, and hope that a sequel or perhaps just a related novel comes in its wake. As a comparison, the closest work I can compare Dust City to is the Fables graphic novel series, which is about fairy tale characters living in the modern world. I think that Dust City will appeal to teen and adult readers. There is some violence, but nothing gratuitous. I recommend this book to reluctant readers of high school and college age, the guys should particularly enjoy the read, as well as any adult that enjoys being surprised by a fantastic read. I rarely say this, because everyone has very different tastes, but I highly recommend this book to every reader in their teens or older.