Friday, September 22, 2017

Short Book Reviews: On the Devil's Road with Laura Anne Gilman

I loved Gilman’s take on “the Weird Wild West” since I read the first volume of this series Silver on the Road). In this world, the Devil presides over “The Territory” (roughly the southwest of the present US), imposing order and protecting the land and its inhabitants from both chaotic magic and incursions of Americans bent on the kind of exploitation and industrialization that has in our world destroyed so much wilderness. Needless to say, he isn’t what we’d think of as evil, but he is powerful and mysterious.

Young Isobel has grown up in Flood, the Devil’s headquarters, and in the first volume has embarked upon a life on the road as his Left Hand, a sort of one-woman magical police force, along with her trail mentor, Gabriel. They had various exciting adventures, some involving magicians that were once human but through their craving for magical power have become something else.

Now, in The Cold Eye, new challenges greet them, beginning with a series of unexplained earthquakes, the appearance of supernatural animals bearing enigmatic warnings, and a host of fascinating but questionable characters. This second volume is not “more of the same,” however. Gilman takes the story up a notch by delving into the very nature of magic, something Isobel is steeped in but does not yet understand. As Isobel gradually comes to realize that she is more than an ordinary human chosen for an extraordinary mission, we ourselves as readers are brought into a world of experiences beyond our own, deftly portrayed by Gilman’s consummate skill as an author. The journey is fascinating, baffling, exhilarating, and fearsome; more than that, it left me wanting more.

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