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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: Territory

TerritoryTitle: Territory
Author: Emma Bull
Page Count: 320 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: fantasy, western
Copy for review compliments of the public library

50 words: What really happened in the months leading up to the shootout at the OK Corral?  This book proposes that maybe the truth is far stranger-and more magical- than anyone could ever have imagined.  Read on, dear readers, read on...

You might be wondering what a reimagined western has to do with a retelling of a beloved fairytale to earn the opposing spot on today's review double feature.  The answer, friends, is that both books are true genre-benders.  Are they romance? Fairytales? Dark fantasy? Western?  With regards to to Territory, the genre-bending tendencies are even more pronounced.  This dark fantasy Western takes a big gamble by remixing a piece of American folklore, but the gamble pays off.

Territory proposes a few simple ideas: what if Wyatt Earp was actually a dark sorcerer?  What if Doc Holliday was a sort of neutered wizard, unable to access his power, and therefore served as a sort of power well for Earp?  What if Morgan Earp was one of the highwaymen who robbed the stagecoach, therefore committing a pretty big boo boo for the brother of the sheriff?  What if a mysterious stranger appeared in town and, through his very existence, threatened to blow the lid off the whole shebang?

All of those questions and more form the basis of this story, and by the end, a few of them are even answered.  This book does a great job of setting up the what-if scenarios and then allowing your imagination to do the rest.  Alternating points of view between the mysterious stranger and an intrepid widow/newspaper reporter in the town of Tombstone allow for varying stories and perspectives to be introduced (The widow becomes very friendly with the wives of the Earp men, who've become sort of pariahs in their wake of their husbands' crusades against the cowboys, while our Mysterious Stranger is very familiar with the Chinese immigrant community in Tombstone and therefore a previously unheard voice is here in force.)

The supernatural elements of the story definitely smack more of magical realism than high fantasy or anything along those lines, which allows for the basic tenets of the popular story to be included without it seeming like elements were shoehorned in out of necessity.  For those who (like me) were not terribly familiar with the story of the shootout at the OK Corral, Wikipedia has much to say on the subject.

For those who are looking for something that's out of the norm and doesn't really align perfectly with any other story that's out there, Territory is a refreshing choice.  While there were some parts where the pace of the story was a little slower than others, overall this was a tight book with enough action and information to keep me reading and interested from beginning to end.

Overall Grade: A-
 
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