Portlandtown by Rob DeBorde

Portlandtown by Rob DeBordePortlandtown: A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes by Rob DeBorde
Published: St. Martin's Griffin (2012), Paperback, 384pg
Source: Library
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Horror

Welcome to Portlandtown, where no secret is safe---not even those buried beneath six feet of Oregon mud.

Joseph Wylde isn’t afraid of the past, but he knows some truths are better left unspoken. When his father-in-law’s grave-digging awakens more than just ghosts, Joseph invites him into their home hoping that a booming metropolis and two curious grandtwins will be enough to keep the former marshal out of trouble. Unfortunately, the old man’s past soon follows, unleashing a terrible storm on a city already knee deep in floodwaters. As the dead mysteriously begin to rise, the Wyldes must find the truth before an unspeakable evil can spread across the West and beyond.

Rob DeBorde's Portlandtown is a supernatural western, a fantastic blend of horror, magic, and zombies sure to excite even the most demanding genre fan. (from Goodreads)

I checked this book out from the library because it had two things:
1. zombies
2. fantasy/historical fiction/Western mash-up

Conan happy glee gif

It’s got a lot more than that, too, but those were the things that drew me to it– them, plus the cover.

It’s the first book in the series, and unfortunately it does that thing where ALL the characters, backstories, worldbuilding, and main conflict are set up all at once. There’s a LOT going on in this book, with the end result being that I don’t entirely understand wtf is going on. The story itself is fairly simple but the details surrounding it are confusing, especially since I assume the main plotline is going to continue onward in the next book if not the entire series.

For example: the bad guy is scary, but I don’t know what his deal is besides just wanting his stuff back. So much time is spent setting up everyone ELSE’S histories/conflicts/etc., that the bad guy becomes “vaguely disturbing back-from-the-dead” guy who seems to almost hover in the background rather than hang out in the front, where he belongs.

That said, despite the overabundance of STUFF, I had a really good time reading Portlandtown. It was FUN! I love genre mash-ups, and though I haven’t read many regular Westerns I definitely want to read more paranormal/sci-fi/whatever Westerns now. The world of Portlandtown is very interesting, too: it’s a lot like what you’d expect a regular historically-accurate late 1800s Western town to be, but with the added bonus of supernatural intrigue.

The powers people have are different from what you’d usually see, too: for example, Kate Wylde’s power is the ability to disappear in a crowd. Not invisibility, but more like a chameleon kind of thing. I don’t think I’ve EVER seen that in a fantasy-ish book before (that I can remember), so I really appreciate that Portlandtown isn’t full of the more typical paranormal stuff.

I also fell in love with the characters, particularly the Wylde family. There’s nothing I like more than families kicking butt together (The Incredibles!), and each member of the Wylde family is interesting and likable in their own way. As a reader, there’s something for everyone: strong heroic-and-loving father, loving yet super action-y mother, slightly creepy (yet adorable) children with ~*mind*~ powers, and a super grumpy grandpa. They’re just neat people!

So! Despite the fact that I thought there was WAY too much stuff in here for a first book, and despite the fact that the bad guy wasn’t as effective as he probably should have been, I still very much enjoyed reading Portlandtown. It’s got great characters, an interesting setting, and I LOVE the mix of fantasy and Western! I’m definitely going to read the next book. (If there IS a next book. Please let there be a next book!)

Read: April 30-May 2, 2013

A visual aid for what Portland looked like in the late 19th century, courtesy of the author. Here’s a sample:

Portland under water

Author thinks book 2 will be published (maybe) in 2014! Which is not that far away, all considered! Yay!

Similar-ish books: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, which is steampunk-y Seattle with zombies.

4 thoughts on “Portlandtown by Rob DeBorde”

  1. Aw! I love families kicking ass also. That’s why I watch The Incredibles more often than any other Pixar movies even though I do not truly feel that it is my favorite. But it must be because I watch it all the time.

  2. Oooooo, a western-fantasy blend sounds so good right about now! Plus zombies! Yeah, I can totally see why you checked this one out 🙂 I’ll look for it at the library.

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