Emma Bull: Territory

I read this because it was Emma Bull’s new book. I have no knowledge of or interest in the Wild West and would probably have passed it by if it had not been by an author that I liked, and I would have waited for the paperback if the library had not had it.

I had a very neutral reaction to this book, though I think my expectations may have been a little off: this was more of a western with a little magic than a fantasy set in the Wild West (the library has it categorized as a western). I don’t know much of anything about the setting or the historical characters (due to lack of interest), which probably didn’t help; I’ve heard of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, but don’t know anything at all about either of them beyond the associations with westerns. I have no idea how much of the action was based on historical events or how many of the characters were based on real people.

The other problem I had with this was the ending; it seemed very abrupt. The main plot was resolved, but there were any number of things introduced that were not developed. I have seen random people on the internet (nobody related/official) claim that this was intended to be part one of two. If that was indeed the case, I wish there had been some indication of this on the book itself; I would have had different expectations of/reaction to the ending.

This book is set in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881, and follows the presumably historical events from the inside with Doc Holliday, from the outside with the widow Mildred Benjamin, who was a typesetter for one of the newspapers, and from somewhere in between with the drifter Jesse Fox, who had several factions attempt to recruit him. I liked Mildred and was interested in Jesse, and would love to read about their pasts (especially Jesse’s) and futures. I would love to read Jesse and Chow Lung’s adventures in San Francisco(?).

Jesse has been denying that he has any sort of magical powers (his sister went crazy because of them), and was on his way to train horses in Mexico when he felt called to Tombstone. He was called by the Chinese physician/magician Chow Lung, who was aware that something was wrong, but was not powerful enough to fix it. Some portion of the historical figures have some sort of power that they are using to try to gain power and/or control of the area, and are not above using blood sacrifices.

I was interested enough to finish the book (I don’t feel the need to finish everything I start), and would read a sequel if there is one; I would try to learn a little bit about the history and re-read this one beforehand. I actually kind of want to do the research and reread this now, but it has to go back to the library. My lack of knowledge did not hinder my understanding of the book; it works fine as a standalone in that respect. I just feel that I would have enjoyed it more if I had known anything about the setting and had been able to identify the real people and events.

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