I will admit that as I read the first couple chapters of this book, I was less than enthusiastic about it. I thought it was going to be a bit dull, or at least extremely confusing. However, it’s been months since I finished reading it, and it’s still on my mind (hence this review). Instead of boring me with info-dumps and thereby removing all initial confusion from my mind, Emma Bull kept me reading in order to find out more about her fascinating setting and, even more, her likeable characters. I felt so invested in these characters by the end of the book…and found myself on the edge of my seat as they went through various trials and dangers. And no, the book did not end up confusing or dull. In fact, it was a gripping, fresh, unique read, one I highly recommend to all readers of fantasy.
The setting is Tombstone, Arizona, in the days of the Wild West. I think it’s partly this unique setting — drawn with vibrant, gritty detail — that makes the seemingly conventional central characters — a young man somewhat resistantly discovering his magical powers, an independent-minded young woman — so interesting and fresh. Well, that and the fact that they are both well-developed *and* distinctly part of their setting: Jesse is adorably chivalrous and principled, and Mildred is a feminist, but in a charmingly old-fashioned manner. They are both good people trying to find their way in a wild and dangerous world, struggling with griefs and ambiguities while determined to remain noble. The outlaws and less-principled members of society who populate the book are also complex and therefore interesting, too — especially since a lot of them have magical powers. Oh yes.
Emma Bull is a fantastically gifted writer who brings her setting and characters alive to make a book that is by turns heart-poundingly gripping and heart-wrenchingly sweet…oh, and delightfully humorous, too! Okay, that’s it: just read this book.