Laura Anne Gilman, 2015
Premise: Isobel has grown up in the Territory, working in the saloon in the town of Flood. In the Devil’s West, life is what you make of it, if you choose to make a Bargain.
I picked up this book out of curiosity, because fantasy western is a subgenre that I enjoy, but don’t see that often. And I loved it. I have pre-ordered the sequel.
I love the setting. In this world, everything from the Mississippi to the Spanish colonies is the Territory. The Native nations co-exist with small settlements from outside, all governed by the Agreement: give no offense without cause, and the Devil protects his own. Magicians and marshals both ride the roads, and crossroads are places of power and danger.
Who is the man who runs the Territory? It’s unclear, but Isobel has grown up in his saloon, under his teachings, and as she comes of age she is given the choice what to make of her life. Her choice sends her out to ride the lands, and the resulting tale is full of adventure, mysticism, danger, and a gorgeous depth of description.
The land itself is practically a character, it’s described in such a compelling manner. I have always loved the sea and the mountains, but this book could convince me to love the plains.
I also loved that there is a female main character and NO romance in this book! Everyone is too busy getting stuff done/running for their lives/fighting evil magic/etc. Also, Isobel deals with many aspects of being female in a matter-of-fact way that I appreciated.
There’s intriguing and worrisome foreshadowing for coming books as well, dealing with events outside the Territory and what might happen as history marches on.
In short, this hit right in my sweet spot.
5 Stars - An Awesome Book