Have I ever mentioned I love westerns? I’m pretty sure I have. So when I found The Dead of Winter, the unholy love child of Clint Eastwood and Eric Kripke, I was over the moon. Then I got the sequel. Now I’m exiting the Sol system and heading onward.
She Returns from War is the follow up book by Lee Collins staring his female gunslinger Cora Oglesby. The first book talked about Wild West cowboys hunting supernatural monsters and the second book picks up right where that left off.
This book takes places four years after the first one, and after the horrific ending of Dead of Winter, we find that Cora has done the unthinkable; she’s quit hunting. So when a young woman from England, Victoria Dawes, comes looking for Cora, as a solution to the creature that hunt her, she find Cora unwilling to help. She’s retired. Try as she might she cannot convince the hunter to help her.
But what does happen is that Victoria Dawes’ arrival sets into motion a series of events that pulls Cora from retirement and pits her against Anaba, a Navajo witch bent on taking revenge for the atrocities committed against her people.
I expected this to be a bit of a straightforward deal. Dawes comes looking for help, Cora eventually gives in, and the two run to England to cause havoc and mayhem. Like taking Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson and thrusting them into England to save the Queen. But what I got was something different. This wasn’t a damsel in distress pulling the retired gun back into the game; this was more of an evolution of Victoria Dawes. She goes from rich girl meant to be wed off but being haunted by monsters to the next Cora; a booze drinking, gun swinging, vampire killing some bitch.
This does bring up one of the faults of the book, albeit somewhat minor. Victoria Dawes. This book is about her, Cora is just along for the ride. Almost everything is about Dawes. It even takes a couple chapters until our leading lady shows up. We have to sit through a lengthy intro into Dawes, the passing of her parents, and her descent into darkness that forces her across the pond in search of Cora. At times it feels like I just put in Metal Gear Solid 2 into my PS2 and instead of getting to play as Solid Snake I have to play as Raiden. That being said Raiden proves himself worthy of the title.
While Dawes wasn’t who I picked up the book to read I am sure glad I did. She is a well flushed out character; she is strong willed and eventually grows into a strong huntress. It’s a true testament of what happens when you throw a kid into the deep end of the pool. Either they sink or they swim. Dawes is a swimmer.
One of my major pluses for Collins work is that he writes a western that stays a western. In recent years most westerns (or earlier) involving monsters or bad guys each all fault to the need to bring modern weapons into the past. Van Helsing got a machine-gun crossbow. Jonah Hex got a Dynamite crossbow and Hansel got a double barreled crossbow with alternating methods of firing, a razor whip, and street cred from the Avengers. Collins stays true to the era. He doesn’t try to build a computer for a cowboy or give him a ‘fancy flying machine’ to soar with. Cora uses six shooters, silver bullets, a blessed knife, and that’s about it. Thank you Collins.