Archive for July, 2013

wickedastheycomeSubtitle of this post: Don’t fear the smooching!

Second subtitle of this post: Or the shirtless dude. Really. Just get over it. Dudes can be shirtless in the presence of other dudes.

I am going to be completely honest right now. I would never, ever have found this book in a real live meatspace bookstore. Never. And it’s a damn shame.

The power of twitter compels me! Wicked as They Come by Delilah S Dawson came across my Nook because of twitter. Dawson is hilarious on twitter. She’s twitter buddies with a bunch of other authors I like a lot. A Chuck Wendig – Delilah Dawson – Sam Sykes trifecta is one of the best parts of my twitter feed. Chuck Wendig in particular talked up WickedThat was enough to get my attention. I’ve mentioned many times on this blog how I get a lot of my reading material from other authors I like. “Steampunk traveling sideshow, parallel dimentions, bunnies that drink blood!” Sounded pretty damn awesome.

I was surprised to find that the book was marketed as romance, not SF. Huh. There’s that reason I’d never find it in a bookstore. That’s kind of odd, though. Sounded pretty SF to me. Well whatev. My Nook doesn’t segregate books by marketing terms.

Back of the book… er… blurb from my Nook time!

When nurse Tish Everett forced open the pesky but lovely locket she found at an estate sale, she had no idea she was answering the call of Criminy Stain, from the far off land of Sang. He’d cast a spell for her, but when she’s transported right to him, she’s not so sure she’s ready to be under the spell of another man. (It didn’t go so well last time with controlling, abusive, domineering Jeff.) If only Criminy wasn’t so deliciously rakish….

Half the inhabitants of Sang are Pinkies—human—and the other half are Bludmen, who in Tish’s world would be called vampires. But they don’t mess with any of the bat/coffin/no sunlight nonsense. They’re rather like you and me, just more fabulous, long living, and mostly indestructible. (They’re also very good kissers.) But when the evil Mayor of Manchester (formerly Bludchester) redoubles his efforts to rid Sang of the Bludmen once and for all, stealing Tish’s locket in hopes of traveling back to her world himself for reinforcements, Criminy and Tish must battle ghosts, sea monsters, wayward submarines, a secret cabal, and thundering Bludmares to get the locket back and allow Tish to return home…but has she found love with Criminy? Could she stay in Sang forever?

Copying that back cover summary is actually the first time I read it. Aside from that parenthetical remark about kissing, still sounds more SF than romance. I feel like I could spend the whole post just talking about how Wicked should be shelved with SF. There’s a Jules Verne-ish submarine. airships, and clockwork carriages straight out of steampunk. Hauntings and the bludmen (much classier versions of modern vampires) bring in the horror. Blinking between worlds evokes a classic sci-fi feel. Mixing and blending genres, I love that stuff. Dawson takes all these different parts and purees it into a seamless world full of color.

My favorite part of the world building is the ecosystem of Sang. It starts with bludbunnies. They’re hilarious. All the prey creatures of Sang evolved to become predators. Bludbunnies will gang up on you and eat the flesh right off your bones while being fuzzy and adorable. They’re so ubiquitous, Tish will just punt them absentmindedly as she’s walking around. Bigger blud animals get a lot meaner. Bludstags are bad ass and will kill you eight ways from Sunday. Kind of sucks to be a straight up human in Sang so they oppress the b’jebus out of the bludmen.

So what about the romance things that scare people so much? Seriously just deal with it. Get over it. A relationship between two characters is conflict. Conflict is the basis of all good stories. Relationship conflicts are filled with emotions and the things that really let you know who a character is. In the journey of their relationship, you really get to see Tish and Criminy bared raw. As the POV character, you follow Tish’s evolution and see the determination to her mindset. She’s not in a good place really at the start of the book. I never felt her character arc was forced or ever dependent on Criminy. They were intertwined, as they should be what with the relationship between them central to the story, but they each had their own separate arc to build upon.

“Oh but vampires and smooching and blah blah blah.” People hear romance and vampires and automatically gag on Twilight. Sparkly little toolbags, this is not. Move on. Criminy is more of a dapper sideshow barker than an emo sparkle fest. Because that’s what he is. He’s the lead guy in an otherworldly sideshow. Who does magic. Fucking magic man! That’s awesome. He just happens to drink blood too. Criminy is the kind of character that would be awesome to hang out with and have a beer.

The potatoes of the story that goes with the meat of the relationship side of the tale is all about that dastardly Mayor of Manchester. (I really like any excuse to use the word dastardly) He’s got some grandiose destroy the world as we know it kind of plans. Blinking back and forth between worlds to take over is pretty damn awesome. There’s some weight and heft to these evil plans. There’s nothing worse when the antagonist’s raison d’etre falls with a dud. Along with the gravitas (also another world I like any excuse to use) of the antagonist’s plot, there is an immediency. Things have to move now. Tish and Criminy are rushing at a breakneck speed because they have to. They’re not running for the sake of running. Everything in Wicked has a purpose and a meaning pressing the story forward. It’s one of those rare kinds of novel where I never felt there was a wasted word.

I enjoyed the hell out of Wicked as They Come because I listened to people who talked up a great book and not some marketing department and what shelf they decide books should be on.

Best Served Cold

Posted: July 26, 2013 in Genre, Reading
Tags: , ,

PrintToday I’m tackling that fickle buzzword of the genre, “Grimdark.”

It’s one of those things with a very nebulous definition. There are a few mostly agreed upon parameters of the term though. It’s generally thought of as the polar opposite of the White Hat fantasy that ruled the day from Tolkien up through the 90s. The term didn’t exist back then, but GRRM’s A Game of Thrones was probably the first to buck the trend. It’s hard for me to say because by the time I was in college buying my own books, I was looking for something much fresher than high fantasy was back then. The term low fantasy didn’t exist back then either. There was just fantasy. Done. Got a sword and/or a dragon? You’re all lumped together.

Getting off my tangent there, grimdark is bad people doing bad things, often for bad reasons. They’re usually violent and bloody. “Bad” people and “bad” things are grey areas though. That leads to a lot of debate over who counts. I’ve seen GRRM, Sam Sykes and Peter Brett all included in grimdark even though I wouldn’t consider any of their characters or writing despicable. The one person who is universally considered the ruler of grimdark, however, is Joe Abercrombie aka Lord Grimdark. No really. Go use twitter. That’s his handle.

Today we’re reading Best Served Cold and heading straight to the back of the book!

War may be hell, but for Monza Murcatto, a soldier of considerable fortune, it’s a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular – a shade too popular for her employer’s taste. Betrayed and left for dead, Murcatto’s reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

I picked up Best Served Cold in large part because it is a standalone novel. That’s not something that happens a lot anymore. Trilogies or more-that-that-ologies are all the rage lately and while that’s all well and good when I find a series I love, sometimes I don’t want to get lose between books or be tied down to one set for weeks on end. My reading time isn’t as prolific as it used to be. Best Served Cold is a stand alone but the fourth book set in the same world. That kind of thing is growing on me more lately. You get some of the benefits of sequel, a shared world, familiar sights and characters, but without feeling like I need to take notes for the later books.

So that’s why I used this book for the first Abercrombie grimdarkfest. Let’s get back to that back of the book summary there. Pretty short eh? You really don’t need more than that. It’s a very succinct summary of the first chapter of the 880 page book. Monza, the mercenary general, is hanging out with her boss. She’s betrayed. Stabbed. Beaten. Stepped on. Cast forth to the harsh mistress of gravity. It’s pretty bloody. It’s one of those “Wait… you’re alive how?” kind of moments.

That’s pretty much it right there. For the next 800 pages Monza is on a tear to kill the seven guys that were in the room when she was defenestrated from it. Of course, after she heals up she doesn’t have a mercenary army anymore. She recruits herself a team. There’s the slightly crazy ex con, the spymaster, the drunk (who used to be her boss), the poisoner and his apprentice, The most important of all the supporting cast around Monza, because it really is her story and hers alone, is Shivers.

Shivers came from the north as an immigrant to get away from the clan warfare. He wanted to be a better person. The world doesn’t seem to want that for Shivers. Ever. He’s constantly stuck in situations where the only way forward is compromise. His bad luck with fate isn’t what makes him the most important of the supporting cast though. Shivers is Monza’s moral opposite. He is the juxtaposition that really lets you see where Monza is exactly. When they first meet up, Shivers is constantly talking of being a better man. Monza is terribly cynical about the whole deal and is telling Shivers to toughing up and deal.

But thought all the stabbing, double dealings and and rivers of blood, Monza has a real character arc that kind of snuck up on me. Her quest seems to grind her down and the Monza at the end of the book is very different than the Monza that first vows revenge. Shivers tracks opposite of Monza the whole time. I don’t think Monza’s emotional arc in this book would have worked at all without Shivers around to balance things out. I wouldn’t call Shivers her anchor, but he would definitely be her reference point.

Best Served Cold kind of wore me down a few times. Not all of Monza’s hit list are so easily shanked in a back alley. Some of the assassination schemes were fantastically detailed. The battles range from the grand down to the gritty. A couple times in the middle of the book I really wanted to just yell at Monza “Just frickin’ stab them already!” The reveal always justified the set up. I never felt unsatisfied with any of Monza’s hits even if the set ups took their time on occasion. The betrayals and double dealings with Morever, the poisoner, were particularly great.

So how would I sum this up? Well, Best Served Cold is a kung fu movie done up in fantasy digs. The entire time I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but make the huge, glaring parallels with the Kill Bill movies. Some people die up front. Main character is left for dead. Time to go after EVERYONE and get a couple feelings along the way. Kill Bill even starts out with the quote “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Actually, from now on, I am going to picture Monza in yellow and black Bruce Lee armor. It doesn’t really work as an image, even in my head.

Best Served Cold is a violent story about amoral people. It will grind at your psyche a bit. But it wouldn’t affect people if it wasn’t fantastically well written. It’s a good book but you can’t go into this one blind. You really need the right mindset pick up on all the depth going on with Monza’s revenge quest.


Posted: July 16, 2013 in Reading
Tags: ,

hexedI’ve been horrible at the blog lately, I know. All that time spent finishing the novel edits and getting it ready to shop out to agents. Gah. What am I thinking? Well here I am with another book I’ve read recently that I really enjoyed the hell out of. And I also enjoy telling people about books that I enjoy the hell out of. As you do.

Today is Hexed by Kevin Hearne. This is book two of the Iron Druid Chronicles. I read the first book back near the start of the year, but I was hammered by my self imposed deadline to get draft 1.5 of my own book done and posted a group of mini pontifications for my five book backlog. Conveniently for today, that means I don’t have to run into the problem of repeating myself a lot when I’m talking about a series since the book one post was so mini. So hilarity is on tap.

Back of the Book time!

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of WWII.

With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

Alright the easy parts I didn’t get to expound on with the mini post. Atticus and his dog Oberon, which talk telepathically to each other, are hilarious. Oberon likes to make pop culture references and wonders why werewolves don’t want any dog treats. It’s a kind of friendship that’s very hard to write and terrifically rewarding to the reader when it’s done spot on. Atticus and Oberon are like Kelly McCullough’s Ravirn/Melchior and Aral/Triss or Scott Lynch’s Locke and Jean. As a writer, dialogue is one of the areas I have to work real hard at so when it really pops between two characters that have a long history, it doubly impresses me.

Now remember, I love some pantheon action. Godpunk is one of my favorite subgenres. One of the things I love about Hexed and the series in general, is that it’s the Irish pantheon, one which isn’t repeated so much as the Greco-Roman or Viking. (It’s funny I say that because the next book I write myself is going to be all about the Greeks) In the first book, it’s established that the other pantheons are around, we just don’t see much of them what with Atticus being an Irish druid and all. The non-aggression pact witches are all Polish and follow the Zoryas. Die Deutchestotten, which my D-minus in college level German tells me might translate to German witches, are all about the demon sacrifices. Figures from Christianity, Native American folklore and some of the good ol’ Norse play with the Irish out in Tempe this time around in Hexed.

The different faces coming in and out of Atticus’ live keep the pace of things always moving. At one point I did remember thinking “Oh that’s it, I thought more time passed.” Atticus has a real busy few days in Hexed. The conflict with the witches is the central thread through this book. The two covens have a history of animosity and Atticus had run across the German witches back during WWII. There are a couple loose threads from book one that show up, which I had completely forgotten that they were loose threads until I was told so. The problems of not reading every book back to back to back. Well, not really problem problems, more of a “Oh yeah, forgot all about that bit.” A lot of the Norse threads in Hexed are set up for the long play, probably book three but maybe even a longer play than that. Book Two problems since second books always stand alone less than the first.

Granuaile is just getting started as Atticus’ apprentice. They’re at the beginnigs of their snappy dialogue relationship as teacher and student. She hasn’t reached Oberon levels of dialogue snap. She’s very much in the early padawan stages so there’s not much arc yet. The arc’s got to carry her across the whole series, or at least a big chunk of it. Being an apprentice druid takes a long time one would imagine. And one should imagine because Atticus says as much when Granuaile signs on. I do wish we could have seen a bit more of the teacher-student stuff going on but that’s an after the fact thought. There’s so much going on I wasn’t worried about it while I was reading it.

So there you are. Hexed is a fantastically fun piece of godpunk. Even though the narrative is chopped up a little more than the first book, it’s because we’re planting some long term seeds that have to span nine books. That’s a tough amount of juggling to do, but the characters are so well thought out and delightful in their interactions with each other, the juggling act doesn’t bother me a bit. It just makes me want to read more and find out how all those long term seeds are going to turn out.

Readercon 24

Posted: July 14, 2013 in Conventions, Genre

Clearly I was at Readercon 24 over the weekend what since I talked about it in a post yesterday and also it’s the title of this post. So I’m going to talk about it. Cons in general are something I wish I could go to more often. Realistically though, they’ve got to be within commuting distance of Rhode Island. That means even Hartford is a bit of a stretch since there aren’t any highways that go in a straight line west. If there are a dozen cons within commutable distance of me, I’d be surprised the number was that high.

I consider myself crazy fortunate that one of the most known SF book cons is right near by.

This wasn’t my first rodeo, but it was my first Readercon. I heard lots about the reputation before hand and it wasn’t really an exaggeration. The staff ran a tight show. The hotel decided they wanted to close the lobby for renovations which kind of sucked not really having a hang out area but that was beyond anyone’s control. I never felt like it diminished from the con. Everyone collectively said meh and rolled with it without letting any parades get rained on. It was a nice feeling to recognize faces, on panels and in the crowd, from Boskone.

On the panels and such, I was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes con panels are just fun or interesting. I got a lot out of them that I’m going to use in my writing and about a half dozen scribbles in my notebook saying “Use this for a blog.” That’s a big combination of good panelists, chemistry between the panelists and a great topic. I hit up eight panels and two readings, more than I crammed into Boskone. I’m not a reporter, so I’m not going to give a blow by blow color commentary of the con, but I will throw down some of the highlights from the panels.

In Ode to Unpublished First Novels, Ann Tonsor Zeddies put something into words that I’ve noticed in my reading lately. I find a lot now, I seek out the first books of newly published authors. Wes Chu, Madaline Ashby and a lot of the other stuff coming out of Angry Robot are new. As a reader there is something extra special about discovering a new author when they’re new too. Zeddies said that with the first book there is a fearlessness that is often lost, never to be recaptured. I’m just about ready to start shopping my own first (finished) novel and start the next so that really hit home for me.

Drinking Horror’s Blood, a panel on horror tropes bleeding out into other genres, made me super happy. Genre theory was always one of my favorite topics back in film school and that needs no translation from film to writing. It’s all the same thing. I don’t think enough people talk about genre theory in SF circles, which is odd because we are it by definition. Back in film school, Horror was always the easiest to talk about because it seems to have a much faster cycle of Innovation – Convention – Self Referential than other genres. I found it facinating to think that before the 1920s and 1930s, it was just literature. Genres didn’t exist. The relationship between horror movies and horror literature was very facinating to hear about too. They don’t seem to play as nicely as you’d think. That idea might turn into a whole blog post.

Pining for the Fnords: The New Nostalgia (which is a mouthful of a title) was really genre theory in disguise and had the best crewed panel of the whole trip. It was a State of the Genre kind of panel largely in response to books like Redshirts and Ready Player One. The panel collectively refuted the idea that SF is going backwards or longing for things left behind it. It’s a much better, and more natural idea, to take the same kinds of scenarios from the past and reuse them with modern sensibilities. I think that’s especially true of sci fi since the actual science used changes so rapidly. Some super techie guy in the audience tried to say writers were afraid of technology because they didn’t use all the super most up to date stuff in their books. Elizabeth Bear, who is fast becoming my favorite panelist for anything, tried to explain reasons and logic to this guy but he was stubborn and ended up just saying “Your premise is wrong so we can’t answer you.” It was great.

Readercon does this cool thing called the Memorial Guest of Honor. They bring a focus to the forerunners of our genre who have passed away. This year it happened to be Roger Zelazny and he happens to be my all time favorite author. The panel included his biographer, who also put together an Amber Encyclopedia which I didn’t previously know existed but need to get now, and also his son Trent Zelazny who is a mystery writer. Sometimes its tough for role models to be real people too and I know the wikipedia version of his biography, stripped down to basics. So I walked away real happy to know Zelazny was a great person in addition to a great writer.

Trent Zelazny is also a really cool guy and I’d be picking up his books regardless of his last name.

The last panel I want to talk about at length (because I’m starting to get a runaway word count and still have that novel to work on), is the one that will be effecting my own writing the most. It was Making Love Less Strange: Romance for the SF Writers. First off, I was real surprised there were more than 10% guys in the crowd. The very idea of romance turns people off for some reason. Sam Sykes, one of the most thoughtful writers out there when it comes to genre issues, wrote a big blog piece on that topic a few months ago that stuck with me. Story is conflict and relationships are inherently conflict. This panel of romance writers stripped down their genre, (one that has subgenres magic and monsters and the like already) and showed us how we’re practically doing the same thing already. They threw down a basic structure of the romance story and I sat there thinking, “Well hell, that’s practically my next book already.” And it’s true. That basic structure, plus punk rock, plus a few deities, plus Rhode Island (because it’s not Connecticut anymore) is my next book. This is going to help me in the same way as writing blog posts about other books helps me with my writing. Being aware of the tropes I’m tapping in to will help me to do it better.

I want to talk about people before I wrap this up because cons are really all about the community and connecting in a way that you can’t on the internet. Each con I go to, I come across people at these panels who sell me as a person and make me want to go and find their books. But only a few really impress me so much I think they should be on every panel. Last year that was Myke Cole. This year, between Boskone and Readercon, it’s Elizabeth Bear. She’s a very great speaker and really helps to energize a panel. I already thought that her writing was great but now I need to track down her entire backlist. She sat next to me in a panel audience too. I felt too weird to just say hi. Social butterflies have it so easy.

Bear was also one of the two readings I went to, the other being by Theodora Goss. Both read from in progress pieces and it’s not fair the world needs to wait to read these in their entirety. Both were excellent pieces and not nearly so unpolished as the disclaimers at the start of the reading. It made me feel pretty damn fancy to get a sneak preview. I want to throw money at them already.

My only real complaint about Readercon is actually the same one from Boskone. The availability of books by the program participants wasn’t always there. A lot of the book sellers at the con were rocking used books. That’s all well and good. I get that I am really spoiled by The Book Barn. Yeah it’s down in Connecticut and I don’t live across town from it anymore, but it’s not that far off I can’t jaunt down there when I need to. So all that mass of out of print old school stuff is really a non issue to me. I can mine the depths of old school SF for a buck a pop and then take the kiddo to his grandparents all in one trip. I did see a lot of books I want to read. Chuck Wendig’s Dinocaplypse, Gwenda Bond’s Blackwood, DB Jackson’s Thieftaker… I could go on and on. My To-Buy List is a mile and a half long. But when I go to these cons, I want to get things I can’t on any regular day. I make it a point to buy stuff from the people I see at the con. I dunno, I guess that isn’t really something that the con itself can control. They’re not actually selling the merchandise, but there’s got to be some way to have a better availability of the participants.

I did manage to score a couple great books. Ironically, both authors were there at the con, but not actually panel participants. I got a signed copy of the Clarkesworld magazine that has Catherine Valente’s “Fade to White” which is my favorite short I’ve ever read. Super happy to have a signed hard copy of that now. I also got a copy of Evie Manieri‘s Blood’s Pride. I saw it for sale and was all “Oh! Twitter said you’re here and it’d be epic if you could sign the copy for me.” It happened. She was a delight to meet. I also got my well-used copy of Lies of Locke Lamora signed by Scott Lynch. Another really awesome person and it’s the first Shelf of Honor book I’ve ever gotten signed.

I’ve been working on this for far too long tonight and my brain is starting to melt. I will end with some of the best quotes of the con.

“A majority of readers will remember your story and not your prose.” -Nicholas Kaufman on Workshopping as a Lifestyle

“I feel a little bad that we’re stealing their toys, but not bad enough to stop.” -Elizabeth Bear on the SF genre moving forward

“The sun may be going nova, but we’re not going to change our marketing plan.” -Ann Tonsor Zeddies on markets boxing in writers

“We just offended every Belgian in the room.” -Scott Lynch … still no context for you because I find it absurdly funnier that way

Mini Readercon Post

Posted: July 13, 2013 in Conventions

This year I planned ahead and got to go play at Readercon. I’m actually going to go play again tomorrow too. I’m going to do a full on post about the whole adventure and whatnot either tomorrow night or Monday. In the mean time, here’s some snippets out of my notebook from the panels I went to today. Context not included. Direct quotes and ideas attributed where applicable, otherwise it’s just the general sentiment from the whole panel.

“I didn’t know any badass characters. I had never been a bad ass character.” -Daryl Gregory

“He breathes oxygen, she breathes hydrogen. How will they make this work?” -Natalie Luhrs

Urban fantasy took off so fast because it’s romance with world building.

Horror, as a hard to define whole, is one of the easier genres to mix into other things.

Until the 1970s and Anne Rice, vampires had absolutely nothing overt to do with sex.

Trent Zelazny is a really cool guy and would be regardless of his last name.

Evie Manieri is super awesome for taking the time to meet me after “Ooh! Twitter said you were here too and I absolutely want to buy your book and get it signed!”

And the current front runner for Best Random Quote of the Con… “We’ve offended every Belgian in the room.” -Scott Lynch

The Dead of Winter

Posted: July 3, 2013 in Genre, Reading
Tags: , ,

deadofwinterTime to catch up on pontificating about great books while the kiddo eats his breakfast with Mickey Mouse on the TV.

Right to the point, today it’s The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins. What caught my eye about this one?  It’s tagged as “True Grit meets True Blood.” Genre mashups, hell yeah. The supernatural undead and the Wild West. Yeah, I’m sure it’s been around a bit. I’ve heard the term Weird West before but I’ve never really seen in the forefront before. There was that CCG, Doomtown from back in 98 that had an RPG with it. The only other thing I’ve seen recently is a short story in Saladin Ahmed‘s Engraved on the Eye collection. So even if the undead – Wild West mashup isn’t really new, it’s new to me.

Second thing, it’s Angry Robot Books. Anything they put out is on my radar automatically.

Back of the Book time!

Cora Oglesby and her husband, Ben, hunt things – things that shouldn’t exist.

When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious, bloody deaths out in the badlands, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible. But if she is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, Cora must first confront her own tragic past.

Pretty short and kind of vague, eh? The Dead of Winter is a book that is difficult to talk about without giving away spoilers. Right around the 2/3 mark of the book, I got to a point where I yelled “Holy shit!” right in the middle of my office. (Lunch break reading gets me through the day) I then laughed with excitement over the fantastic storytelling move Collins pulled off. I think it must have been difficult for him to pull off so perfectly but the payoff was worth it. There’s a part of me that feels bad for even mentioning that such an awesome moment exists. It caught me completely off guard. But in this case, I think I need to let people know that such a deft storytelling coup exists in order to show just how awesome this book is. I have a serious desire to high five Lee Collins.

Like I said, got to keep this somewhat vague, just like the back of the book, or I’ll ruin it too much.

One aspect where I can talk specifics without ruining the book is the main character, Cora Oglesby. Reading a woman main character has never been a thing to me, frankly it shouldn’t be a thing to anyone. A strong character is a strong character regardless. But in this case, a female demon hunter in the Wild West is different than a female demon hunter in a modern urban fantasy. In the post-Civil War west, women gunslingers were not common. Mad Cora Oglesby has enough of a reputation as a bad ass though that she runs across more people who want to one-up her to bolster their own rep rather than get squeemish about her being a woman. Her reputation as a bad ass is fully earned too. In her backstory, Cora and Ben had been fighting the occult for years. When Ben came back from the losing side of the Civil War, they had no work in Virginia and went west to play bounty hunters. But it was a flooded market so they ended up taking a job from a helpful priest to fight some black magic witches.

The backstory alone would make for a great novel. Her quest in Leadville, as vague as it is here and on the back of the book, is not outshined by the backstory. I tore through The Dead of Winter real fast. There was a lot of movement in the plot without ever being too frantic. The last act in particular is powered through the sheer force of Cora’s personality.

The Dead of Winter is the kind of genre blending book I always want to see more of. The Western tropes and the horror tropes stand together to make something new. And after reading in the SFF genre for almost twenty years, new get very rare. More importantly than how fresh the tropes are, Cora Oglesby is a fantastic, drunken, bad ass heroine, scars and all.