It's always a treat to discover an author who is a world builder. Last year, Laura Anne Gilman introduced The Devil's West in the first book in the series, Silver on the Road. She doesn't disappoint readers with the second book, The Cold Eye. She's created a world, set in the early 19th century, in which what we think of as the Louisiana Territory, west of the Mississippi, is called The Territory. It's the Devil's land, and the old man's Left Hand rides that territory, watching for trouble, dealing with it, and, eventually, reporting it back to him. The Devil's Left Hand is Isobel nee Lacoya Tavora. She's sixteen-years-old.
Isobel is accompanied on the Road by her mentor, Gabriel, who agreed to show her how to survive in the plains and mountains of the territory, how to meet the tribes, how to hunt and eat and ride. But, after a fight left him injured, Gabriel is recovering at camp while Isobel delivers mail. But, she doesn't show up on time. The power in one section of the Territory has been drained. Buffalo, sacred animals, have been slain. The wildlife is missing from the territory, and Isobel hears a whisper that wakes her at night, calls her to find what's troubling the land. As Isobel and Gabriel discover, there's a threat both inside the Territory and from the outside.
There are rituals on the Road, but Isobel leads Gabriel off the road in her search for answers. It's a dangerous sidetrack. At times, she can't feel the earth's power, as she has since she became the Left Hand. The pair sense they are followed, and, at times spirit animals appear to help, or to test Isobel. It's a journey that will leave Isobel asking, "Who am I?" What is my purpose?
The Cold Eye is a compelling journey through difficult terrain and a complex world. Gilman has created a world for fantasy readers who appreciate a touch of reality. It's also a book for western readers, as two riders cover the vast spaces of the Territory, dealing with tribes, marshals, western justice. The Cold Eye is a beautifully written, well-developed story for anyone who appreciates a coming-of-age story set in a half-familiar land. There's promises of future trouble and ongoing issues with an encroaching government in the next book. For now, The Cold Eye has enough turmoil for any land. But, I can't wait for the next book.
Laura Anne Gilman's website is www.LauraAnneGilman.net
The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman. Saga Press. 2017. ISBN 9781481429719 (hardcover), 334p.
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