Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday. Ike Clanton.
You think you know the story. You don't.
Tombstone, Arizona in 1881 is the site of one of the richest mineral strikes in American history, where veins of silver run like ley lines under the earth, a network of power that belongs to anyone who knows how to claim and defend it.
Above the ground, power is also about allegiances. A magician can drain his friends' strength to strengthen himself, and can place them between him and danger. The one with the most friends stands to win the territory.
Jesse Fox left his Eastern college education to travel West, where he's made some decidedly odd friends, like the physician Chow Lung, who insists that Jesse has a talent for magic. In Tombstone, Jesse meets the tubercular Doc Holliday, whose inner magic is as suppressed as his own, but whose power is enough to attract the sorcerous attention of Wyatt Earp.
Mildred Benjamin is a young widow making her living as a newspaper typesetter, and--unbeknownst to the other ladies of Tombstone--selling tales of Western derring-do to the magazines back East. Like Jesse, Mildred has episodes of seeing things that can't possibly be there.
When a failed stage holdup results in two dead, Tombstone explodes with speculation about who attempted the robbery. The truth could destroy Earp's plans for wealth and glory, and he'll do anything to bury it. Meanwhile, outlaw leader John Ringo wants the same turf as Earp. Each courts Jesse as an ally, and tries to isolate him by endangering his friends, as they struggle for magical dominance of the territory.
Events are building toward the shootout of which you may have heard. But you haven't heard the whole, secret story until you've read Emma Bull's unique take on an American legend, in which absolutely nothing is as it seems...
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
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About the Author
Emma Bull's War for the Oaks won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. Her subsequent works have included Falcon, the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-finalist Bone Dance, Finder, and (with Steven Brust) Freedom and Necessity. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.
Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. Her subsequent works have included Falcon, the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-finalist Bone Dance, Finder, and (with Steven Brust) Freedom and Necessity. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.
Read an Excerpt
By Emma Bull, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2007 Emma Bull
All rights reserved.
The buckskin horse walked up Allen Street just before dawn. Its head was low, its dollar-gold hide was marked with drying sweat, and its black legs were caked with dust. The man on its back was slumped forward with his face in the tangled black mane. His hat was missing, showing hair as straight and black and disarranged as his mount's. A stain spread dark on the side and skirt of his brown canvas coat.
An ore wagon thundered by, murdering sleep for newcomers who weren't accustomed to the sound. A few drowsy, half-drunk miners trudged toward the shafts that rimmed the town, clutching their coats to keep out the cold spring air. Neither the miners nor the wagon driver so much as glanced at the man on the horse. A man slumped on a horse wasn't enough to make a baby stare in Tombstone.
The horse stopped uncertainly at the edge of the street, outside a building tricked out in turned porch posts, raised moldings, and gold paint. Yellow light glowed in its window and through the open double doors. The murmur of men's voices and the clank of glass against glass reached the street.
The buckskin seemed to expect the man to rouse himself, fling the reins around the hitching rail, and clatter across the boardwalk and through the doors. When nothing of the sort occurred, it stepped forward, once, twice. A fly bit it, and it flinched. At that, the rider slid out of the saddle like an unstrapped pack, and landed hard on his back in the dust.
A man peered out the door. His face was round, blunt-nosed, and topped with a pile of sandy-red cherub curls; a moustache, an imperial, and a scowl kept it from outright childishness. He was red-eyed with liquor and smoke. His shirt was wrinkled, and sweat made dark half circles under his arms.
"Hell. Some damned drunk fool fell off his God-damned horse." He stepped unsteadily to the edge of the boardwalk and frowned over the still figure. "Well, shit. Milt, Billy!" he called back over his shoulder. "Give me a hand!"
Chairs scraped inside, and Milt and Billy pushed out onto the walk. Milt, the older of the two, sent an arc of tobacco juice into the street. "Just because you can't play cards worth a fart doesn't mean you can break up the game."
"Help me haul this kid."
Billy, taller than the other two, bony at the joints like an adolescent wolf, looked down at the boy in the street. His eyes grew wide. "Jesus, Ike," he said with the suggestion of a squeak. Then he seemed to recollect himself; he settled his face into an awkward sneer. "Better him than me."
"Quit yammering and take his legs."
They picked up the boy and maneuvered through the doors. They slung him, not very gently, onto the surface of the table closest to the window, scattering the components of their interrupted poker game. The bartender, nodding behind a copy of yesterday's Epitaph, ignored them.
There was only one player still sitting at the game. When the three men dropped their untidy burden in front of him he sighed heavily. "I believe," he said, "I am being inconvenienced."
"Sorry — Milt, go fetch Goodfellow — but the doc'll want the light." Ike jerked his thumb at the lamp shining down over the table. "Fellow's been shot, don't you see."
The bartender looked up sharply over his newspaper. "By God, Ike, if he bleeds on that table, you'll clean it up."
The seated man raised a corner of the boy's coat and extracted a glass half full of whiskey from under it. He took a swallow. "Anyone you know?"
Billy answered. "He might be Sarey Diaz's brother, up from Cananea."
"Hell, no," replied Ike, chewing his moustache. "Seen him before, though. He was riding drag with Leonard and Crane on a herd going up to Chandler's ranch."
"Is he still alive?" asked the seated man.
Another heavy sigh; then the last of the whiskey went down his throat. "Yes, he would be."
* * *
Doc Holliday looked down at the wounded boy on top of his cards and tried to think of something else. He clutched at irritation over the spoiled game: now he'd never know if Milt Hicks had had anything when he raised the second time.
He wasn't drunk enough for dying boys, especially ones he wasn't responsible for. To have this one land in front of him — if he signified what Doc suspected he did — was a foul sort of practical joke.
The fever swelled in his skull, buzzed in his ears. His lungs were like hot lead bars inside his chest — lead bars you could cough up a piece at a time. He ought to be in bed, not on display in the front window of the Oriental. Damn Morgan for a perfect empty-headed, God-forsaken idiot.
He was lucky it was Frank Leslie tending the Oriental's bar. Frank did what Wyatt told him to, and Doc, in Wyatt's absence, could sometimes pass for the voice of Wyatt. He'd bullied Frank into selling him a bottle.
And the cards were good, better than medicine. He'd rather play with clever players, but he'd settle for Ike and Billy Clanton and Milt Hicks. Doc loved the cool, relentless logic of the cards. They had no pity or fear or doubt; they fell as they fell, and anyone who regretted or begged them or raged at them was a fool. Sometimes he wished he could be part of the deck. A red jack, maybe, expressionless, with two heads and no ass.
Now here was this corpse, or soon-to-be corpse, reminding him that flesh was frail and plans were made to totter and fall.
At the corner of his eye, he saw someone step through the doors. Milt with the doctor. Goodfellow must have come in his nightshirt, Doc thought as he looked around. But it wasn't Dr. Goodfellow.
Doc could measure and judge a man or woman at a glance; any decent card dealer could. He might choose to fly in the face of his judgment, but he always took that measure. He didn't gamble.
The man who stood framed in the doorway could be read like a book printed in three languages, none of which Doc felt he properly knew. He straightened a little in his chair.
He wanted to know how the man's eyes moved, but the newcomer wore dark spectacles like a blind man, smoky green glass in gold wire frames. His wide-brimmed, low-crowned hat deserved better treatment than it had received of late. His hair, probably brown under the dust, hung in a plait to his shoulder blades, the way some Indians and a few of the Mexicans wore theirs. Doc guessed he'd been clean-shaven a week ago.
The nap was worn off his corduroy sack coat at the sleeve hems and elbows and collar; Doc was puzzled to make out its original color. The waistcoat underneath was missing a button, and there was no collar on his shirt. The buckle of a gunbelt showed at his open coat front.
The newcomer swept his hat off and moved to slap it against his thigh, then seemed to reconsider. Good; the dust would have choked them all. The man surveyed the room and its inhabitants, and spotted the unconscious boy.
"Oh. There he is." He moved toward the table. Doc expected him to take the spectacles off then, but he didn't. It was like looking into the blank dark eyes of a locust.
"If you're a friend of this gentleman's," Doc said, "I feel I should warn you that he has a God-damned large hole in him somewhere."
The newcomer laid two fingers to the boy's pulse just below the jaw. He frowned. "No, not a friend. Have you sent for the doctor?"
"Heavens, no," said Doc, and saw Ike twitch. "We had a mind to let him bleed to death and see how long it took."
The man smiled — good white teeth — as he folded back the boy's coat and pulled up the checked shirt underneath. Doc stayed where he was. He was afraid he might sway if he stood up.
The man fumbled at his trouser pocket, but the gunbelt got in his way. His eyebrows dropped down to meet the spectacle frames. He unbuckled the belt in a single smooth motion and dropped the rig on the chair next to Doc. Doc made a point of studying it over, just to see what its owner would do, which was exactly nothing. A blued, long-nosed Colt Army with walnut grips, in worn leather.
"My name's Jesse Fox." The man pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. Unlike the rest of him, the handkerchief looked clean.
"Pleased," Doc said. "Dr. John Henry Holliday, at your service." In his own ears it sounded like an alias. Nobody called him John, and precious few called him Dr. Holliday.
"You're a doctor?" Fox's hands stopped above the boy's ribs, and his face turned to Doc.
Doc grinned. "Dentist."
"Oh. Would you pass me that whiskey, please?"
Doc looked at the bottle on the floor beside him, that he'd snatched off the table when Ike made to drop the boy on it. "Only if you intend to drink some."
"Let's pretend I am." Fox stretched his hand out for the bottle.
Doc looked up into Fox's face. No threat or plea — only the neutral, polite smile and the outstretched hand. Doc passed the bottle even as he wondered why he would do any such thing.
And of course, Fox poured it on the wound. At least I hadn't bought the good stuff.
Fox made a Ladies' Aid Society noise — tsk, tsk — and did something with the handkerchief and the wound. "I hope the doctor's close."
"Funny how you went right for the spot," Ike said suddenly. Doc almost jumped; he'd forgotten there were other people in the room. "Maybe you shot him."
Fox raised his face in Ike's direction. "Positively I shot him. He was stealing my horse."
That shut Ike up. And Doc, too, but he recovered quicker. "Mr. Fox, Ike Clanton. The young man with him is his brother Billy." Fox gave them each a polite and distant nod. "You appear to be wearing most of the dirt between here and Prescott. Whereabouts did it happen?"
"I was camped two hours north of here."
"And this fellow showed up on foot?"
"Maybe someone stole his horse." The face around the spectacles was perfectly expressionless.
Doc grinned and leaned back in his chair. This was as good as a play. And useful, perhaps. He stole a glance at Ike and Billy, and decided that, with a little prompting, they'd remember the conversation.
"He's got his hair braided up like a squaw," Billy said suddenly, as if it had taken him that long to recall where he'd seen it.
"Or a Chinaman," Ike said. "No, on Chinamen it's longer. You're right, Billy, it's a squaw braid."
"I hear fellas who've got the syphillis wear dark glasses. Light hurts their eyes." Billy shot a look at Ike and grinned.
A pity that Billy took his older brother for his model. And it was just like Ike to wait until a man had proved himself polite and sober, and had taken off his gun, before he poked at him.
But for all the reaction of the round green lenses, they might have spoken Russian.
"Say there, fellow," Frank broke in from behind the bar. His eyes shifted from Fox to Ike and Billy. "If you're meaning to stay in here, I'll mind that gun for you."
What's the matter, Frank? Doc thought. Getting too old to duck?
"Certainly. Thank you." Fox lifted the gunbelt off the chair and pushed it to Frank across the bar, as if he'd offered to take his hat and coat.
"Who says that's your horse?" Ike asked. "Might be this fella's, and you were the one doing the stealing."
"If I'd done it, my feet wouldn't hurt, and I wouldn't be standing here on them discussing it with you. I suppose you mean trying to do it."
Ike frowned at Fox as if he wasn't sure he'd been answered.
A crack of laughter escaped Doc before he could swallow it. "These fine distinctions are wasted on Ike," he said. Ike turned his frown on Doc. "This boy's in no condition to tell his side. Lacking that, you might want to back your claim with something."
Fox sighed. "What would you have done for fun if I hadn't shown up?"
"Won money off these boys until they quit."
Ike opened his mouth to reply, but Milt burst through the doorway with Doc Goodfellow behind him. He stopped at the sight of Fox. Goodfellow ran into Milt from behind, swore at him, and pushed past to the table. Fox stepped aside.
The doctor jerked open the wide mouth of his leather bag and began to pull things out: two brown bottles; a canvas bundle that unrolled to show the bright chrome of scissors, probes, and retractors; a wad of cotton lint; a scalpel case. Doc rose and moved away from what had become a surgery. He didn't like to linger in places where life and death were smiling at each other over their cards.
"Gunshot?" Goodfellow asked the room.
"Yes, sir," Fox replied.
Goodfellow spared him a glance before turning back to his work. "Anybody who knows how it happened should tell it to Ben Sippy."
Fox turned to Doc. "The law?"
"City marshal. But Goodfellow's a damned high stickler about these little disagreements." Doc watched Goodfellow out of the corner of his eye, and was sorry to find himself ignored.
Fox sighed. "As well now as later. Where do I find him?"
"City offices are on Fremont. North, and a block west. It'll be another hour before anyone's there."
"Then I guess I'll sit on the doorstep." Fox turned toward the door.
Ike stepped into his path. "You plan on telling him about that horse?"
Fox, from the set of his head, just stared.
Doc ambled to the end of the bar. He wanted to watch Fox's face for this. Ike must be even more drunk than he was himself.
"Well?" Ike stuck out his chin. "I'll wager you can't prove that's your horse."
Fox's voice was so soft Doc had to hold his breath to hear it. "I don't feel like taking your money."
Stand aside, Ike, Doc thought happily. Stand aside or prepare to throw down. The room was thick with the feeling before the lightning. But Fox's gun was behind the bar. Had he forgotten he wasn't heeled?
Fox drew his spectacles a little way down his nose. That was all: just slid them down and studied Ike over them like someone's maiden auntie might.
Fox's eyes were a penetrating light brown. The lamplight caught in the nearest one, like a glass of good bourbon with a flame shining through it.
In that suspended moment, Doc was gripped by a feeling he couldn't name. It wasn't fear. He feared only one thing, and no man could bring that down on him. But it was enough like fear to make him heedless of the weight in his lungs.
Ike stepped aside, his mouth pressed shut under his moustache. Fox pushed the spectacles up. The lightning had struck and gone, and left cold empty air behind it.
Fox walked outside. Ike, Milt, and Billy followed him, unconscious as ducklings. Doc pushed away from the bar and followed, too, as far as the doorway, where he leaned.
There was a buckskin horse of exceptional quality tied to the rail. It raised its head, nostrils flaring, as Fox reached the edge of the boardwalk.
"That's a handsome fellow," Doc said.
Fox glanced back and smiled. Then he untied the horse, laid the reins loose over the saddle, and walked away into the street.
Halfway across he stopped and whistled, three carrying notes.
The horse's ears swiveled at the sound. It lurched away from the rail and covered the ground between it and Fox in a few brisk steps. Fox looked over his shoulder at the men standing outside the Oriental and nodded. Then he turned back up Fifth Street with the horse behind him like a dog at heel.
"You forgot your iron," Doc called after him.
Fox stopped and looked back. The round green lenses flashed in the dawn.
"It'll wait for me," he replied. He, and the horse that was unquestionably his, went on up Fifth and passed out of sight.
"That son of a bitch is looking for trouble," Ike grumbled.
"I doubt it," Doc replied. "But if he is, you're not the man to bring it."
"What's that mean?"
"Not a thing, Ike. You do as you please." Doc smiled up at the morning sky. He felt pleasantly tired, sleepy even. Now he could go back to Fly's and maybe catch a few winks before he set off after the posse.CHAPTER 2
Mildred Benjamin regularly stepped out her front door braced for whatever practical joke Nature had prepared. This morning she found the best one of all: perfection.
She stood squinting and wondering like a creature let out of the Ark. The air was cool, and fragrant with sage from the foothills. Some freak breeze had laid the dust and smoke from the mines, and the Dragoon Mountains looked as close as the other end of town. The sky was blue and wide in a way she could never describe in letters to her sisters in Philadelphia. The closest she'd managed was that, out here, you understood the true circumference of the Earth, because you could see it reaching past you on every side.
Excerpted from Territory by Emma Bull, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2007 Emma Bull. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book finally came out in paperback, so I jumped on it. Bull writes a fine quality of fantasy in general, and this is no different in quality. But she has produced something highly original. In substance, this is a story of life in Tombstone, Arizona, in the days when it was a booming mining town. The historic verisimilitude comes through at every point without detracting from the finely drawn characters. The women characters are especially well done, although every character is distinctive and believable. The fantasy is subtle, running through the plot without ever coming quite out into the open. This blend of Western and fantasy is a fine example of story-telling.
A well-done wild western. Emma Bull is so accomplished at making place into a character. I could taste grit in my teeth, feel the dry Arizona heat on my shoulders while I was reading. Jesse Fox is a "sorcerer in a frontier Gothic" and one of the novel characters in a story twisting Doc Holliday, the Earp brothers, and cattle rustlers into a magical showdown. The fantasy here is subtle, slow-building, mysterious.
This is really good - intriguing characters, a neat spin on an old story, and a quietly twisty plot. I reached the end and wished that it kept going
Westerns, I should say, were never really my thing. I liked Emma Bull's SF-novel Falcon just fine though, and so I decided to give Territory a try, too, in spite of its not-immediately-appealing premises as stated on the back-cover.And I enjoyed it. More, I'd say this is my favourite work by this author thus far.In my opinion, it's not really a Western. I wouldn't describe it as 'fantasy' either, or a 'western fantasy'. To me, Territory is, at heart, a tragicomedy of manners, comparable to Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, Lois McMaster Bujold's A Civil Campaign and Jane Austen at her best. It's not a romance, pur sang, but yes, there is ado about a ball and who gets invited to it by whom, and yes, the story is very much driven by its characters and their place in the society of Tombstone.It's also a smashing good read.
In Serenity Found (essays about the Serenity/ Firefly `verse) there¿s an essay by Bruce Bethke explaining why there¿s so little science fiction (and by extension, fantasy) with western themes and settings. As I remember Bethke¿s essay, Hugo Gernsback put a one- page ad in every issue of Amazing saying you¿d never find that trope in his magazine. So, even though Gene Roddenberry described the original Star Trek to the NBC studio execs as ¿wagon train to the stars,¿ and there was an episode (a stupid one) of that show set in Tombstone, there just isn¿t much sf/ f with western settings. According to Bull¿s novel, which is set in Tombstone, where we never see the infamous gunfight, Wyatt Earp is a powerful sorcerer, who has his three brothers and Doc Holliday under his magical control, and a lot of the rest of the town, as well. This story is told from the simultaneous points of view of the invented Mrs. Mildred Benjamin, a recent (and Jewish) widow, who comes to know the Earps wives and has some magic of her own. She works as a typesetter, then reporter for one of the local newspapers, and she has sent off two stories and had them published in a national magazine. She also has a good impression of Jesse Fox, a cultured white man, who learned his magic from Chow Lung, a Chinese doctor. When he is murdered, Jesse must find his murderer. Doc Holliday is also a POV character, he has a little magic as well.After reading this and Sarah Canary I hope to chase down more sf/f western pastiches. I would very much like to read more by Emma Bull about Mildred Benjamin, her incipient career as a writer, and Jesse Fox, his magic, and horse training and whatever it is Chu will be able to do. But I don¿t expect to, because Emma Bull is not very prolific in her wonderfulness, nor is she prone to write sequels, but on her website or live journal or something she says she is working on one! Yippe-kayo-kay-yeah!
I loved War of the Oaks by Bull and was excited to see that she had another book out. I ended up listening to this book on audio. I enjoyed the Western take on the fantasy and the intricacy with which the world and characters were created. The story moved a bit slow for me though and in the end there were too many things left unresolved.The audiobook was well done, the story is told from three main viewpoints. The male ones are read by one narrator and the female one by another narrator. In general I really enjoyed the way the story was read.The story is complicated and includes some of our favorite Western heroes. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Ike Clanton are all part of the story. And the story is a complicated one. The story is mainly told from three viewpoints. Jesse Fox has decided to travel west and when he shows up in Tombstone he ends up drawn into a political battle that may end up being about more than politics. The second viewpoint is Doc's, he has tuberculosis but it seems to ease when he is around Wyatt, he trying not to get drawn into the seedy events happening in Tombstone but he is. Mildred Benjamin is the third; she is a widow who sets type at a local newspaper...she can sometimes sense or see things that shouldn't be there...because of this she also gets drawn into some strange goings on.Just trying to give a good synopsis of this story makes my head hurt. I am not at all familiar with Western history, so I didn't really recognize or relate to any of the characters right off the bat. There are a lot of characters introduced and it was difficult for me to keep them all straight in the first third of the story. To add to this difficultly we change viewpoint a lot and the plot is not at all clear. The story starts as a recounting of seemingly unrelated events that happen in Tombstone. It takes a long while for the reader to figure out how all the events are connected and even then the story doesn't seem to have a real point.It also takes a while for the magic to show up. You can tell that Wyatt isn't quite right from the beginning of the story; but it seems more like a misuse of power than anything magical. You also know that Jesse Fox is struggling with accepting that he has more than normal abilities. All of this isn't very well explained until late in the second half of the book; so it takes awhile to realize that there is magic and it does have relevance to everything that is going on.The plot itself isn't much of a plot. Basically you are reading about Tombstone and what is going on there; the main plot is basically the mystery to unravel why all of these people are doing what they are doing and why they are all in Tombstone in the first place. I found the first part of the book to be slow and boring and had a hard time figuring out what the point was.There were some things I did enjoy. You can tell that Bull put a ton of work into research for this novel; I loved the detail and the way things were described. It seems like she put a lot of effort into mirroring the true history of Tombstone; it would have been nice to have an afterward addressing this.I also really enjoyed the characters of Mildred and Jesse. Mildred was a wonderful example of how the Wild West let women take on more responsibilty and start to carve their own futures without giving up being women. Jesse Fox was mysterious, yet very easy to relate too. It was funny how daring he could be at times but how when it came to Mildred he always put his foot in his mouth. I enjoyed these two characters and though they were well done. The surrounding characters were okay but never came alive for me like these two did.The book ends pretty ambiguously. The main problem is kind of dealt with but not in a permanent way. You never really find out where all of the characters go or end up. The story just kind of stops. I looked to see if there was going to be a sequel but it doesn't look like it.Overall an okay book. I really
On the cover of this book there is a quote by Neil Gaiman that reads ¿Emma Bull is really good.¿ You should take Gaiman¿s word for it, she is really good. This story is a great western adventure novel sprinkled with magic. It takes place in Tombstone where many characters from western folklore once lived; Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, John Ringo, Ike Clanton. Fictional characters are interspersed with the real historical figures. They all have one thing in common, they are linked by magic. In this version of History, Wyatt Earp knows he has magical powers and knows how to use them to control others. Jesse Fox, a horse tamer passing through town on his way to Mexico, has been denying his powers for years, but now must face the ramifications of them head on.Emma Bull is wonderful at describing life in the old west. We learn about land ownership rights, cattle rustling, social etiquette, horse taming, and the monsoon season in Arizona. Her writing is so vibrant you can see the action. She describes the social life in what was once a bustling Arizona town from the opera house to the ballroom and the Chinatown. The characters are well drawn and believable. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
I was not, probably, the ideal reader for this book. I know almost exactly nothing about Tombstone, Wyatt Earp, and the like, and I think it would have been a richer and more interesting read if one did.One very minor quibble: the etiquette of introductions was wrong. In every case, the woman was introduced to the man, the elder to the younger, etc., which is backwards. Like I said- minor, and I'm sure it would bug most people; I'm just the kind of dork that reads etiquette books for fun (especially old ones).
Guns and sorcery! This is a lovely fantasy-western. Original and nicely written.
Emma Bull is a wonderful writer and this retelling of the Tombstone legend is pure magic. She has a fresh and original take on the story, plus her familiarity with Southern Arizona helps to bring the setting alive. Highly recommended.
Territory broke new ground for me. I have long been a fan of realistic western fiction, the grittier the better, but have never much enjoyed fantasy writing of the type filled with magicians, superheroes, or magic kingdoms. Fortunately, this time my love for both factual and fictional accounts of the Earp brothers, and their association with Doc Holliday, overrode my reluctance to spend reading time on the fantasy genre. That is because Emma Bull has pulled off what I would have considered impossible before reading Territory: a near perfect blending of a realistic western with a healthy dose of magic thrown into the mix. That Bull¿s use of magic is key to the development of her novel¿s plot and characters but still not overdone, makes for an enjoyably off-center look at some real-life characters already very familiar to fans of Old West novels. The action all takes place in and around Tombstone, Arizona, just a few months before the infamous (and still mysterious) ¿Gunfight at the O.K. Corral¿ as all the usual suspects gather there to feed on the hatred they feel for each other. On the one side are Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and the equally famous dentist who calls himself Doc Holliday. On the other side are gunslinger Johnny Ringo and the Clanton and McClaury brothers, a bunch of part-time cowboys and rustlers. What makes this portrayal of the historical events of the day so different is that several of the key players have more than simple charisma working in their favor; they are secret magicians with the power to influence events as much with their minds as with their pistols. Into this mix, Bull blends several fictional characters that get caught up in the events of the day. Jesse Fox, making his way to Mexico where he hopes to make a living breaking wild horses, stops in Tombstone to see his old friend from San Francisco, Chow Lung. Fox knows deep-down that his Chinese friend has unusual powers but is reluctant to admit it even to himself. Little does he know that Chow Lung has called him to Tombstone using some of that same magic so that the two can investigate the evil that has entered the town. Mildred, recently widowed, works in one of Tombstone¿s daily newspapers as a typesetter but is the glue that holds the little paper together. When Jesse Fox comes into the office one day, they inadvertently begin a partnership that will change both their lives forever.Bull takes the time to build a realistic setting within which she develops her characters and their motivations. Atmospherically, everything will seem so familiar to fans of the western genre that, when fantasy replaces realism, they will hardly notice the jolt. Fantasy and magic are well used in order to explore a world on the edge, one in which physical strength and domination are key elements in local politics and in the everyday lives of all of Tombstone¿s citizens.This one is fun, and it would be a shame if those who loathe either western fiction or fantasy fiction were to miss it. Give it a shot.Rated at: 4.0
Excellent writing, witty conversations, unique story.
War for the Oaks is by Emma Bull and one of my favorite fantasy novels, so I was excited to see she has a new novel out. Territory is set in the Old West, in Tombstone, Arizona. She never gives a date, but gives an event, the assassination of President Garfield, which places the action in 1881. There are two main characters. Mildred Benjamin and her husband moved to Tombstone about a year ago, and her husband died soon after. She now works as a typesetter, occasionally reporter, for the local newspaper. Jesse Fox comes through the town on his way to Mexico. He friend Chow Lung is in Tombstone, and has been trying to get Jesse to admit he has magickal powers and to learn to use them. It is needed because there is at least one more sorcerer in town, a dangerous one. Meanwhile we see parts of the story through the eyes of Doc Holliday.It is a tale of several fascinating personalities, and a good story most of the way through, but ends unexpectedly and before the scene it seems to be building towards. It is unclear if it is meant to end that way of if there is a sequel in the offing.
Set in Tombstone, Arizona, inexorably heading toward that famous showdown at the OK Corral, Emma Bull tosses in some sorcery into the mix as an underlying source of tension. Told from the point of view of typesetter Mildred Benjamin and drifter Jesse Fox, this story puts a new twist on the Western genre. As odd as the combination of Western and magic sounds, Bull has a subtle touch that reminds me of Connie Willis or Barbara Hambly at their best. Strong on personality and sense of place, Bull tosses us into the action in midstream so we have to pick up what's going on from the characters' mind which just makes it all the more intriguing. Highly recommended.
I hesitate to judge a series until it's done, but this retelling of the Earps/Doc Holliday/Tombstone story is shaping up well. The fantasy-as-western or western-as-fantasy genre is under-represented and, therefore, has a fresh feel to it.Though obviously not everyone agrees, I enjoyed the somewhat meandering pace of the novel. In my mind, it fit seamlessly and enhanced the whole "laconic cowboy" feeling.
More about Emma Bull¿s Territory:I very much appreciate Emma Bull¿s careful choice of words, in Territory and in her previous work. So many of her words are exactly right. Some readers and writers are picky about words; I¿m among them. Emma Bull is among the handful of authors I count as very often finding the mot juste. More difficult to get right is the rhythm of the sentences, paragraphs, and larger structures. I agree with Ursula LeGuin when she says, following Virginia Woolf, that finding the right rhythm is even more important than finding the right words. The rhythm of the ritual at the climax of Territory would be hard to improve. I¿m going back to reread War for the Oaks, looking for the same rhythmic excellence.Bull¿s descriptions of Mildred¿s inner reflections on writing as she learns to write capture the anxiety of not seeing how the structure will coalesce, the way the materials dictate their own form. This is one way to write, anyhow. I like the similarity she displays between reportage and this way of writing fiction. In some academic and other non-fiction writing, this is very much how the process works.The LC subject headings and the reviews and tags I¿ve seen so far seem to have missed what in my mind are some of the most salient themes of the novel: the development of a friendship of equality and independence between a man and a woman, and the development of a woman as a writer; the parallel between Mildred¿s appropriation of her powers as a writer and an independent person and Jesse¿s appropriation of his earth and air sorcery; the raw drive for power that disguises itself as law and order; the double edge of loyalty.
Huge disappointment from a good author; terrible pacing and not all that interesting.
When you hear that Territory is a fantasy set in Tombstone, you probably think it's leading up to a certain event, and you're wrong. The next book might be, but not this one. This is very very good. I think it would also be very good but very different for someone who hadn't lived for a while in southern Arizona. I know all the places they talked about (except a couple of mining towns that don't exist anymore), and I've been to almost all of them. So I have very strong images in my head not only of Tombstone itself but of Bisbee and the Dragoons, the Huachucas and all the other mountains; I can guess what the trip between Tombstone and Bisbee must have been like before they tunneled through the Mules, and by extrapolation from other rivers what the San Pedro in flood is like. Bull gets the rains right, in a way I think only someone who has lived in Arizona could -- both the blooming desert in spring and the giddiness of the first summer rains, when serious adults will dance in the rain with their arms outstretched for the sheer joy of relief from the heat. And I knew that there had been a Chinatown in Tombstone, which someone less familiar with the area may have found surprising and even difficult to believe.But everyone in America has the Old West in their head to some extent, and even if they fill in the specifics with more generic landscape the characters are still the same, and still fantastic (I especially wish we had gotten to see more of Lung), and even someone who never set foot in Arizona would find a lot to like here.
Thank you for Jesse Fox. Thank you for Mildred Benjamin. Thank you for Chu. Mostly, thank you for a Tombstone with bones and flesh and spirit.
Great read, sort of an unfinished ending though.