Today's book review is Territory by Emma Bull.
This is a standalone novel.
I read this book strictly because of the author, but in this case I should maybe have been a little pickier about the subject. This is a mashup of a classic Western and fantasy, and I'm not at all in touch with the Western side of it. The setting is pretty well realized, but I believe that the reader is still supposed to bring some cultural understanding that I don't have. I think this book is meant for people who know the Western tropes better than I do. People who easily recognize where Bull is honoring the tradition and where she's tweaking it will probably enjoy this a lot, but I had a mild but persistent feeling that I wasn't quite getting the joke. Or it could be that I'm misreading my own feelings, and the problem I was having is that she does too good a job of depicting a place that, for all the romance our culture ties to it, is just not a place I'd want to visit. Still, despite the fact that I wasn't comfortable with the setting, I found the characters reasonably engaging, and the story was pretty good, up until an ending that snuck up behind me, yelled BOO, and vanished while I was still startled. I think if I knew more about the real history, I'd be better prepared to appreciate the novel -- but unfortunately, I just don't feel tempted to go read up on the real history.
I think this is a well-written book; I just didn't like it very much. If a serious story about magic sneaking into a Western frontier town actually appeals, your mileage will probably be better than mine. 6 out of 10.
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