#TBR Challenge – Once More With Feeling: Territory by Emma Bull

Territory by Emma Bull, in the fantasy sub-genre now called Weird West, was published in 2007. I bought it immediately in hardcover because I loved previous books by Bull…but then it sat in the TBR because I wasn’t very interested in the town of Tombstone and the OK Corral, which it seemed the story was about. I am pleased to report that the book is not actually about the OK Corral. Various Earps are everywhere (Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan, Jim, etc.) as well as subsidiary pov character Doc Holliday, but I confess I was much more interested in the original characters.

Warning: this post includes plot spoilers. If you do not like plot spoilers, and plan to read this book, click away.

The fantasy elements are slow to emerge. The story is more about the vividly portrayed mining town of Tombstone in 1880, a Stranger Who Comes to Town, and a lot of fascinating women, with swirling tensions surrounding the Earps in the background. The magical element is linked to the stranger, Jesse Fox, and his friend and mentor Chow Lung. The female point of view character, widow Mildred Benjamin, and the women she encounters (Kate Holliday, and several of the Mrs. Earps among them) are what caught my attention, however. I wanted a lot more about them. Jesse is a cipher at first; I didn’t find him interesting until he began bantering with mercurial Chow Lung, and was not pleased when, much later, Lung was killed, leaving Jesse a bit lopsided.

Mildred intrigued me from the start. She works as a typesetter at a local newspaper, where the editor, it’s clear to the reader if not to Mildred, thinks she should be a reporter. After selling a romantic adventure story to a magazine, Mildred researches and writes her first story for the paper; her experiences of receiving a response to her story, and having her first effort at journalism edited, were my favorite scenes in the novel. I also loved seeing her friendship with Mrs. Austerberg, wife of the local shopkeeper, and her growing relationships with other women in the town.

Jesse first denying and finally embracing his magical abilities were a reasonable arc, but I felt the fantasy element as a whole felt vaguely unfinished, possibly because the OK Corral battle, which I had assumed would be the climax of the book, did not happen. It looked to be on the horizon, but seemed an odd omission unless another book or books was planned to follow. I was left slightly unsatisfied overall, but glad that I’d finally gotten around to the book.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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6 Responses to #TBR Challenge – Once More With Feeling: Territory by Emma Bull

  1. Larry H. says:

    It’s the first of a planned duology, and Bull has been reading passages from Claim at cons since shortly after Territory came out.

  2. WhiskeyintheJar says:

    fantasy sub-genre now called Weird West

    I’m not totally immersed in fantasy but I need to find books in this sub-genre, I occasionally get fascinated with American historical old west too.

    • A lot of the Weird West I’ve read falls into a horror sub-genre, if you like that – Gemma Files and Laird Barron and Joe Lansdale have written some.

      Laura Anne Gilman’s The Devil’s West is a trilogy, I believe.

      In comics, I love Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick (starts out in the Old West and moves forward in time).

  3. Pingback: My January Reading Log | Victoria Janssen

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