Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Return of Cora Oglesby

She Returns from War
Lee Collins
Angry Robot Books
UK Print
ISBN: 9780857662743
Format: Medium Paperback
R.R.P.: £8.99
US/CAN Print
ISBN: 9780857662750
Format: Regular Paperback
R.R.P.: US$7.99 CAN$8.99
ISBN: 9780857662767
Format: Epub & Mobi
R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99

You might recall from my review that I loved The Dead of Winter, the novel that introduced monster hunter Cora Oglesby.  It was an action packed weird western with a number of supernatural menaces, not the least were some vampires that most decidedly did not glitter.

Well, Cora Oglesby is back.  That in and of itself is a good thing.  This is Collins' second novel, and it's going to be subject to the scrutiny most second novels get:  Is it as good as its predecessor, or is the author a one trick pony?

I can say for sure that Lee Collins is not a one trick pony.  But is She Returns from War as good as The Dead of Winter?  That's a tricky question to answer, and it's tricky precisely for the reason that Collins isn't a one trick pony.  Allow me to explain.

This is a different book from the first one.  That's a good thing, because it means the author isn't locking himself into a formula, in essence refusing to become a one trick pony.  But that very difference may alienate return readers looking for the same book they read, only different.

The plot is this one concerns a young lady named Victoria Dawes, a right proper young Englishwoman whose parents are killed in an attack by some type of hellhounds.  Victoria is the only survivor, and she vows vengeance.  No one in England will take her seriously except a scholar at Oxford who worked with Cora a few years previously during the events of The Dead of Winter.  He sends Victoria to Albuquerque, where Cora has opened a bar.

Of course Cora isn't too interested in tramping halfway around the world to help Victoria.  But events intervene, and soon Cora and Victoria find themselves with their hands full.  In addition to vampires, there's a Native American witch who has plans that involve Cora, namely getting her out of the way.  She intends to use Victoria to achieve those ends.

Whereas The Dead of Winter is told from multiple viewpoints, She Returns from War is almost exclusively told from Victoria's viewpoint.  There are a handful of brief exceptions where we see things from the witch's point of view (flashbacks) and once from Cora's.  This isn't bad by any  means; it just creates a different kind of book.  The character development focuses much more on one person than in the first volume of the series, that person being Victoria.  And she undergoes some major changes.  Before all is said and done, she will trade her dress and parasol for a pair of trousers and a six shooter loaded with silver bullets.

On thing that may alienate some readers is that there are loose ends left.  There was one loose end at the conclusion of the previous book, and that one is tied up here.  I'm sure Collins has a third volume in mind, one in which he will tie up the loose ends from this book.  Like maybe a romantic relationship between Victoria and Cora's business partner?  (That's a small loose end, if it's one at all; I won't give any spoilers by saying what the main loose ends are.)

It's those loose ends that may not sit well with all readers, because Collins is taking the series in a different direction.  While I think I enjoyed The Dead of Winter a little better than She Returns from War, your mileage may vary.  Both are great fun.  Both a about as far from the vampires as sexy, misunderstood, tragic romantic figure as you can get.  (That's a very good thing.) 

I recommend them both highly.  Just be advised that Collins is not a one trick pony, and the second book won't be rehash of the first.  Here's an excerpt.

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