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Territory    by Emma Bull order for
by Emma Bull
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Emma Bull has picked an unusual setting and leads for her new historical fantasy, Territory (first of a duo). She takes readers to an alternate 1881 Tombstone, Arizona, the time of the Earps, Doc Holliday, and outlaw Ike Clanton, leading up to the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Her world is imbued with a subtle earth magic, that certain sorcerors can draw on to influence others and manipulate events. Part of the reader's challenge in this story is to work out who those magicians are.

The mysterious Jesse Fox has been called to Tombstone (site of a rich silver strike) by his old friend, physician Chow Lung, who has long been frustrated by Jesse's denial of his inborn magical talent. The same talent has driven Jesse's own sister to madness, but Lung treats it as a science. Jesse, a skilled horse trainer, arrives in town on the heels of the man who stole his horse, the day after a stage holdup. Young Morgan Earp participated and the ambitious Wyatt will do whatever it takes to hide Morgan's role and protect his own reputation. An enemy of the Earps, rustler leader John Ringo, has his own hand in events and wants Jesse on his side. And a powerful sorceror sends a grisly warning.

Widowed Mildred Benjamin is a typesetter for the local paper, the Nugget. She has just published her first Western sensation story, Stampede at Midnight, in Gallagher's Illustrated Weekly. Mildred befriends Virgil Earp's wife Allie and begins to investigate on her own. Like Doc Holliday's nominal wife Kate Elder, Mildred has an uncomfortable gift for seeing through the manipulations of magicians to the truth. After a series of murders and a fire that burns nearly half the town, Jesse grows into his powers - and close to Mildred - and plays his own hand, making a binding soaked in blood.

As this episode ends, 'Tombstone teetered between death and riches, and its people fought each other for every advantage', some with 'a power that turned stone and blood into a weapon.' Caught in the middle, Mildred and Jesse wait for what comes next - as the reader unfortunately must also. Territory is an impressive read, not to be missed by any serious fantasy fan.

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