Friday, October 5, 2012

ARC Review: The Dead of Winter

by Lee Collins

Expected Released Date: October 30th 2012

Cora and her husband hunt things - things that shouldn't exist. When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious deaths, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible, but if Cora is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, she must first confront her own tragic past as well as her present.

Rating: 3.5 /5 Stars

Dead of Winter was an interesting read to say the least. It's a blend of several different genres: Western, Paranormal,Dark Fantasy,Historical … It's all in there. And it was done really well, actually.
When I first started I was wondering how Collins is going to blend in any thing Paranormal into the story… since it was so classic western actually.
And honestly to my surprise it actually worked.
I am not sure if it is because the world building is quite solid or because Collins didn't reinvent the wheel and just told a new story. Because none of the aspects were reinvented; your small town mining city is full of quite stereo typical Wild West characters and there are no new inventions in the paranormal side either. So somehow the plot takes center stage. And Collins tells a good story.

Most of the book is written in Cora's POV, so she is the character one gets to know the best. She is the kick-ass heroine of the book. She and her husband Ben are bounty hunters for the paranormal creatures that roam the west. She is kinda reckless, drinks lots of whisky and gambles. As she says herself: 'I ain't no lady'
While she is really good with gun and sword, she doesn't see it as something special. In fact in some ways she is rather humble about her own virtues. She does on the other hand not miss telling people that they are good on the job and thinks she is a good gambler. The book doesn't disclose if she actually is any good at gambling. But what we do come to know is that she is an incredible fighter and that she is fiercely loyal to Ben. Her love for him is actually very moving and her relationship with him beautiful. I think it shows the heart of Cora, a Cora stripped of years of hardship and how she truly were it not for the necessity to be a hunter. And while she does enjoy their lives as hunters she also starts feeling that the hardship of it is starting to take a toll on her so they decided to take one last extremely well paid job.
I really liked her interactions with Townsend, it showed a rather witty side of hers.
Cora is the most developed character as well. I also think if you don't like her, you won't like the book. Because for me the book hinges on her character to a huge part, needles to say I did like her. In fact of all the characters she is the least stereotypical.

Marshal Mart Duggan is your brave, good dude that keeps the town in order and sometimes drowns his despair secretly in whiskey (which he keeps in his desk drawer) . He can stand down an entire mob of miners on his own, and stands for true justice. As I said the book is full of typical western characters. So there is a young gun fighter who wants to be famous, there is your friendly bartender, the beautiful whore, the young goodhearted deputy who is in love with the whore, a kind priest and lastly the English men.
James Townsend is a Oxford Scholar and I had to chuckle so much about his character, because he was SOOOO English. He is a rather great fun, especially when Cora interacts with him. I have to say that only a non- English person could have written him, its rather stereotypical view of the English and I loved every minute of it.
Flava was interesting. I really enjoyed the brief moments of his POV, and while he was the villain I kinda liked him. He was intelligent and calculated
Which brings me to where for me his character disappointed me.. It the end of the book really.

The End of the book was a bit disappointing for me. So there was all this build up and all this planning and woosh it was suddenly all over. I couldn't believe what Wash did. And it left me with many questions actually. I would have personally preferred a bit of a more enigmatic end somehow.

Collins did touch on many issues very briefly, like slavery and racism of that time or the Civil Wars but doesn't go into detail. I didn't mind this, in fact i feel the way its done, its a clever way to solidify the world building. And since those issues are always addressed from Cora's POV, they take on her observation of them.
There is a very big christian theme in the book, since Cora and many other characters are believing Christians, i have seen that other readers didn't like it. But I personally didn't mind, I sort of imagine that people where like that in that particular time and place
In fact I found the world build was great because the characters are a lot like I imagined people in the US to be at that time. But I am not from the States so I might be mistaken about it. Historically it is solid and the fact that there were mines and mining cities at that time, in fact Leadville was one of them (i googled it). Collins descriptions of the area and the seasons are brilliant.

Probably my favorite thing about the book is that its built up slowly, revealing layer after layer of the story. And there were many twists in it, that were slowly hinted at, and if one doesn't pay attention, they suddenly happen. In retrospective though the signs were appearing slowly and subtly.
I think all in all this is a solid debut novel. Certainly a book to enjoy for lovers of westerns and paranormal.

View all my reviews

Thanks to Netgalley and Angry Robots for giving me the opportunity to read this ARC

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