Then Comes a Drifter
A gritty and desperately turbulent ride through the post-apocalyptic west.
AUTHOR: C.M. Banschbach
AGE RAGE: 15 +
Laramie was born to ride the desert wilds. And she won't let anything stop her, even a fearsome warlord who wants her captive-or dead.
A genius mechanic-and a rare descendant of the once-magical Itan-Laramie drifts from dusty town to dusty town in search of the family that was taken from her.
But her rambling desert journey becomes a game of survival when Laramie crosses a ruthless warlord's territory. Taken prisoner by one of the warlord's biker gangs, she befriends a quiet, dangerous man named Gered. After surviving hellish circumstances Gered is tired of fighting for a better life.
Laramie will always fight. And she'll stop at nothing to win their freedom.
I have read Miss Banschbach’s books for years now, hers were some of the first I read as a young teen, and I often fell back to her when other YA books failed me. Then Comes a Drifter is quite unlike any other story she has written. Her past books have always been squeaky clean, a bit violent, and traditional fantasy. Post-apocalyptic, gritty, and desperation bleeding through its pages, Then Comes a Drifter may be one Banschbach’s best books. While it is perhaps not my absolute favorite book of Banschbach’s, I reveled in Laramie's heart pounding race to freedom.
Plot and Worldbuilding:
Fantasy elements? Wild West? Post-Apocalyptic? Then Comes a Drifter checks all the boxes. While the world is heavily derived off of a Texas like landscape, you can practically feel the brush of magic embedded in the bones of the earth. The world is not a dystopian totalitarianism on the set of decaying destruction; this is a world that has survived the end and lived to tell the tale. Legends and light drift like warm desert winds into even the darkest territories.
The writing pace starts slow but quickly escalates in the first couple chapters. Even when the pace levels out midway, the ever-burning tension kept me flipping pages. The characters were constantly faced with either standing their moral ground or surviving a living nightmare. When Laramie is initially captured and forced to join Rosche’s gang, she is willing to do anything to win her freedom. But when she gains a family she never expected, she must decide if her independence is worth leaving them for a warlord’s game.
The characters. Oh, the characters. If there is one thing Miss Banschbach excels in writing, it’s the characters and redemption arcs. I loved the found family theme and the diversity between them. First you got Laramie and Gered, who are in a completely platonic relationship! Which I actually enjoyed even more when a certain plot twist hits later in the book *wink*.
Laramie is a fighter; Gered is a survivor. While Laramie’s bravery knows near no bounds and she never gives up without a fight (or a good dose of sarcasm), Gered has learned that fortune doesn’t always favor the brave. His morals have turned grey as he has been beaten down again and again, his hope buried in fear and blood. However, with Laramie battering the strained balance between warlord and riders, between oppression and defiance, he might just get his fire back. Honestly though, Gered is just a deadly cinnamon roll who needs some love. Laramie was my favorite type of heroine, fiery, tough, and adventurous but also rational, thoughtful and with a set of morals to withstand a sandstorm.
Then we have the rest of this found family, Dayo, Gioia, and Axel. Dayo and Gioia have been through hell and are almost as haunted by their past ghosts and scars as Gered. Axel is a young recruit who has no idea the mess he has gotten himself into but Laramie quickly adopts him to take the little brother role as she shows him the ropes. Their personalities were vivid, and even in all the darkness and in all their flaws, their loyalty to each other was strong and the banter between them was quite heart-warming.
Then Comes a Drifter has more content than any of the books I have rated thus far. There is mild (pissed, a--holes, d--n, flipping off, and fantasy language) but rather frequent language. However, it is not forced and fits the story. The villain of the story, Rosche, is known for taking advantage of female riders and Laramie has to fight him to earn respect. It is hinted that one character was sexually abused and there are a few obscene comments. The violence was a bit graphic but not terribly so. Fist fights, motorcycle wrecks, shootouts, all fit the story well and help the reader realize what a rough spot the characters are in. Some drinking and smoking.
Even though I have never ridden a motorcycle, Miss Banschbach swept me onto a wild ride like I was born in the seat. I thoroughly enjoyed the thrilling chases, sarcastic banter, and raw landscape. And yes, I did want to buy an old motorcycle to travel the southwest after reading Then Comes a Drifter. Maybe run into an evil warlord and a band of loyal friends along the way! The characters were lovable, and even though some were morally grey, there was clarity between right and wrong, dark and light. If you ever want a gritty and gripping ride with brushes of old magic, close skids with death, and a heroine who fights for what she believes, Then Comes a Drifter goes above and beyond. Though Miss Banschbach better come out with the second book soon!
“Strange how he thought he had nothing until he stood to lose something.” - Then Comes a Drifter