The place is Tombstone Arizona and Doc Holliday is settling into a night of drinking and cards when a man with a bullet in his chest is slammed onto his poker table. Here begins a tale of the old west complete with horse thieves, cattle rustlers, pioneers, strong women, and magic. Yes, magic, and the struggle for power that ultimately leads to the shootout at the OK corral. An intriguing take on a well known and often retold story, Territory by Emma Bull adds a magical twist to the power struggles of Arizona Territory.
On one side of the struggle for power in Tombstone we have Wyatt Earp, who holds the Earp family together. On his side is Doc Holliday, a dentist by education and card shark and drinker by trade. Doc Holliday has untapped power that he doesn't know about. Wyatt Earp wields power and knows it. To that end Wyatt is trying to use it to protect his families and friends interests, and trying to make them rich and powerful in his way, but in doing so is manipulating their lives.
On the other side is John Ringo who is trying to draw everyone in Tombstone with power to him and turning the land itself into something twisted. Instead of using his power to protect, he uses it to destroy what he can't control. He controls the outlaws in town and forces them to do things that turns the stomachs of even the lawless.
On the outside of this power struggle are those that unwittingly stumble into the middle of the brewing feud. We have Jessie Fox, who is “called” into town by Chow Lung, his Chinese mentor. Chow Lung knows of the forces in the town and knows that he needs help so he arranges things so that Jessie ends up in Tombstone. Jessie is reluctant to admit that he has any power, and just wants to go to Mexico, but is drawn into the events unfolding. Jessie is eventually forced to come to terms with his own magical power when his mentor is killed after they stumble upon another mans place of power. Drawn into this mess is Mildred Benjamin, the recently widowed writer for the Tombstone Nugget. She is trying to come to terms with life on her own in the west, and learning to stand on her own. Little does she know she has power of her own.
Emma Bull has created a world where the mundane and the fantastic all come together in a seamless story that keeps you guessing until the very end. Through Jessie, Mildred, and Doc Holliday's eyes you come to realize that magic can be real and can cause real life power struggles.
This book is an exciting read that keeps you guessing until the end. It's western, fantasy, and mystery all in one, and I for one could not put it down.