Historians and westerns fiction writers have been rehashing the 1881 shootout at Tombstone's O.K. Corral ever since the dust settled that day. Nobody, however, has retold the story of Doc Holliday, Johnny Ringo, and Wyatt Earp with more panache than Tucson author Emma Bull. In this debut novel, she adds a generous dose of sorcery into the Wild West pudding. The frontier seems to be teeming with magic: Earp, Holliday, and newbie college dropout Jesse Fox are all tapping their inner magus. Adding to this stew of complication is attractive widow Mildred Benjamin, typesetter by day, penny dreadful writer by night. Territory adds an eerie fantasy edge to a redolent western showdown.
Reality shifts like desert sand here. "You can't always tell the truth of a thing by looking," one character says, "no matter how clear you can see it." The same can be said of Bull's light but smart touch, which keeps the reader alert with rich period details that ring true and equally rich fabrications that subvert expectations.
The Washington Post
World Fantasy-finalist Bull (War for the Oaks) takes huge chances and achieves something distinctively wonderful with this subtle reworking of a western legend. The taming of Tombstone, Ariz., by Wyatt Earp, his brothers and their pal Doc Holliday is a cherished American myth of stoic heroism. Bull approaches the story from a different angle, considering matters that may or may not have escaped Wyatt's chilly attention. When tough-minded widow Mildred Benjamin and drifter Jesse Fox realize that dark magic is manipulating people for a sorcerer's selfish ends, they must decide what they can and should do about it, in the process discovering who they truly are. Mixing fantasy with Old West lore is risky, but Bull takes time to make the place and the people real before undeniably supernatural forces appear. The magic is less flashy than in many fantasy novels, but it's vivid and deeply felt. Readers will think about the story long after it ends, savoring the writing and imagining what the characters might do next. (July)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Equal parts alternate history, fantasy, and Western, this remarkable book presents a unique look at the residents of Tombstone, Arizona, circa 1881. The names will be familiar to many readers because of the O.K. Corral exploits of Doc Holliday, the Earp brothers, Ike Clanton, and others. Events leading up to that famous, old West gunfight are featured but not the showdown itself. Instead the emphasis is on sorcerer Wyatt Earp, who manipulates events and the lives of the residents of the newly formed town for his own gain. Working against this dark sorcerer are Jesse Fox, a well traveled horse trainer who reluctantly possesses his own magical powers, and an independent widow, Mildred Benjamin. Their quest to find and stop the dark forces seeking to control Tombstone creates a spellbinding tale. This first volume in a planned two-book series presents a mesmerizing alternate history of the months before an iconic event in American history, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Bull's use of descriptive language is beautiful and striking, allowing the reader to pause and savor phrases that persist long after the book's final pages. The characters are well developed prior to the introduction of the fantasy elements, resulting in a level of realism exceptional in fantasy fiction. This book will appeal to adults as well as older teen readers. Although it stands well on its own, readers will find themselves eagerly awaiting the promised second installment of this thought-provoking story.
In 1881, the Arizona town of Tombstone, rich in minerals for the taking, becomes a magnet for men and women possessing special gifts or hungry for more power than they already have. To this region of natural magic come Wyatt Earp, a master of sorcery; Doc Holliday, whose power belongs to those who can take it; Chow Lung, a Chinese doctor with his own strange abilities; Mildred Benjamin, a writer of Western adventure and a true visionary; and Jesse Fox, a man with a talent for taming horses, among other gifts. The author of War for the Oakschooses one of the definitive legends of the Wild West as a setting for her latest tale of magic and mysticism, placing a unique spin on the motives behind American history's most famous gunfight. Elegant storytelling and strong characters make this a good selection for most adult and YA fantasy collections.
Bull (Finder, 1994, etc.) attempts to recast the events leading up to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral as a psychic battle between good and evil sorcerers. In 1881, following an attempted stagecoach robbery in which two men were shot dead, a pall hangs over Tombstone, Ariz. Rumors circulate that the gang included dentist Dr. John Henry "Doc" Holliday, a drunk and inveterate gambler who's somehow constrained to do the Earps' bidding, and Morgan Earp himself. A posse pursuing the robbers, including Sheriff Johnny Behan, deputy U.S. marshal Virgil Earp and Virgil's brother Wyatt, grab Luther King and throw him in jail. But, according to Harry Woods, editor of the Tombstone Nugget, King's told only what the Earps want others to hear and will soon be killed. Woods prevails upon his lady typesetter, journalist and writer Mildred Benjamin, to help him free King; Mildred asks an acquaintance, Jesse Fox, a horse-tamer and trainee sorcerer, to hire a horse for King. Though the escape apparently succeeds, later a severed arm-King's-thumps into the dust outside the Nugget offices, together with a talisman warning off sorcerers like Jesse. When a young Chinese prostitute is murdered, Jesse joins his mentor, the wise old physician Chow Lung, to investigate, wondering if somehow the Earps are again involved. But soon somebody shoots Lung dead. The town nearly burns to the ground. Clearly, an evil sorcerer is orchestrating events. Despite Mildred's skepticism, Jesse is forced to accept that he must do what's necessary. Talky, often impenetrable, and so what? An indigestible concoction that'll stick in most folks' craws.
“Takes huge chances and achieves something distinctly wonderful… Readers will think about the story long after it ends, savoring the writing and imagining what the characters might do next.” Publishers Weekly(starred review)
“Mesmerizing… Equal parts alternate history, fantasy, and Western. Remarkable.” VOYA
“Lucid and genuine… Her achievement in making it all seem fresh and new is remarkable. Some of the exchanges between Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and others are genius-level in their sharpness and ingenuity.” Jeff VanderMeer, Locus