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Territory (2007)

by Emma Bull

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7374230,635 (3.8)68
A historical fantasy finds late-nineteenth-century college student Jesse Fox summoned by a magician friend to the western city of Tombstone, where he witnesses the supernatural powers of such figures as Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp.
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» See also 68 mentions

English (41)  French (1)  All languages (42)
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Enjoyable. The first fantasy (the first fiction) I've read in a surprisingly long time.

The ending was weirdly anticlimactic, though. I mean, call me naive, but I thought the actual Gunfight was going to be involved. This was more like... fanfic of a historical event. Like she didn't feel the need to cover everything; she was just covering a side story. I guess that's okay if you're a LOT more familiar with the historical events than I am. I read the Wikipedia page, though, and while I was entertained to recognize the names, the relationships and back-and-forth were very confusing. A fictionalized version of the full event could have been a lot more fun and made a lot more sense.

I could tell she was trying to subvert the race stuff, and that was relatively interesting. But for all that Jesse's flashbacks suggested he and Lung were friends and equals who got into trouble together, in the book Lung only played "wise older Asian teacher." The disconnect was just bizarre. (I knew in advance that Bull has been kind of a douche re: race, but it may be one of those cases where someone who is trying and failing to get it gets a lot more flack than someone who is oblivious from start to finish. That doesn't excuse her, but it does a lot to explain some of the reactions I've read.)

The Chu subplot was loosely tacked on and unnecessary. I was even more annoyed once the secret had been revealed. I guess the way Mildred's reactions change is period-accurate (hell, it's pretty accurate for today, too), but it made me sick.

It was also weird how Wyatt finally gets his humanizing moment right at the end. Might have been interesting to have the competing philosophies right out on the table, instead of just letting him lurk around menacingly the entire book. Similarly, it might have been interesting to let some of Jesse's initial menace stick around. ( )
  caedocyon | Feb 23, 2024 |
A lovely magical take on the background of the Shootout at the OK corral. It's not an adventure-oriented weird western, but a more meditative, emotionally grounded story of hidden powers, the cost of violence, and breaking horses.

It could have done with a more satisfying ending, but then... We know what happens next already. ( )
  JimDR | Dec 7, 2022 |
There's a lot to like in this, I think: the characters are mostly well-drawn, the magic is subtle and interesting, the writing carries Emma Bull's usual warm elegance. But I found myself meticulously overlooking a certain carelessness of storytelling and struggling particularly hard at times to slot Bull's version of the Earps into what I know of them. All that work made the book a lot less enjoyable to read.

Bull picks up the thread of her story, weaves an engaging yarn, and then just...drops...it all. I think she expected the shootout at the OK Corral to serve as a satisfying postscript to her own tale...but her tale isn't about the Earps and Doc Holliday. They're in it, and they're important, but her tale is about Mildred and Jesse, the Earp wives and Chu. And the way Bull shifts the weight of her story at the end, leaving us with the sense that her whole intent was to slide magic into the Earps' destiny? It turns Mildred, Jesse, the wives, and Chu into stage dressing; it cheapens their stories.

I want to know where Mildred and Jesse end up, if Chu stays with them, if they keep in touch with the wives. I want to know if Bull's sacrifice of yet another interesting character in service of her plot (see my review of Finder) actually allows these characters to fill that empty space with one another. I don't want to wonder why I just spent an entire book getting to know people who the author seems to have been using as a way to tell a clever story about a bunch of other people entirely. ( )
  slimikin | Mar 27, 2022 |
Liked this better the second time round. Particularly liked the women characters.

Still disliked the ending, though. It felt like the climax of the book actually happened offstage, and we only got the epilogue. ( )
  VictoriaGaile | Oct 16, 2021 |
One of the best books I've read all year. ( )
  treehorse | Nov 7, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
...All this is for the most part historical record. What makes this story a story is the personal experience of the main characters. ...The book is quite a delightful read. Mildred and Jesse are engaging protagonists, if, as I mentioned, Doc Holliday is a bit thinner. The fantastical element is modest but well-integrated and well portrayed.
 
...attempts to recast the events leading up to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral as a psychic battle between good and evil sorcerers....Talky, often impenetrable, and so what? An indigestible concoction that’ll stick in most folks’ craws.

added by juniperSun | editKirkus Review (Jun 1, 2007)
 
...this solid if anticlimactic fantasy-western crossbreed may enchant and frustrate fans in both genre camps about equally.
 
Territory is, at its heart, a character, rather than action, driven novel, told from Jesse, Mildred and Doc's points of view, in alternating chapters. ... The bond that develops between them [Jesse & Mildred] is equal parts humorous and sweet, and never once falls flat....Readers coming in expecting a straight-forward telling of the O. K. Corral story with a helping of magic on the side will likely be disappointed. Territory is more subtle than that.
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bull, Emmaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Palencar, John JudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
If you ever read this tale, you will likely ask yourself more questions than I should care to answer. . . . I might go on for long to justify one point and own another indefensible; it is more honest to confess at once how little I am touched by the desire of accuracy. This is no furniture for the scholar's library, but a book for the winter evening schoolroom when the tasks are over. . . .

--Robert Louis Stevenson, from the dedication to Kidnapped
Nothing changes more constantly than the past; for the past that influences our lives does not consist of what actually happened, but of what [we] believe happened.

--Gerald W. Johnson
A society in crisis teaches itself to congeal into one story only, and sees reality through very narrow glasses. But there is never only one story.

--Amos Oz
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The buckskin horse walked up Allen Street just before dawn.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A historical fantasy finds late-nineteenth-century college student Jesse Fox summoned by a magician friend to the western city of Tombstone, where he witnesses the supernatural powers of such figures as Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp.

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