She Returns from War by Lee Collins

She Returns From War
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(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Four years after the horrific events in Leadville, a young woman from England, Victoria Dawes, sets into motion a series of events that will lead Cora and herself out into the New Mexico desert in pursuit of Anaba, a Navajo witch bent on taking revenge for the atrocities committed against her people.”

This book is quite different in tone from its predecessor, and I think this works to its advantage.  This time out our main character is Victoria, a proper British young lady who finds herself in the wilds of frontier America on a quest for help avenging her parents’ death.  While Cora, the main character from the first novel, does play a major part in the story, she’s not front and center as much as Victoria is.  Cora is an abrasive character, and a little of her goes a long way.  Not being stuck in her head as the point of view character was, for me, a plus.

It’s also nice to see how these two extremely different personalities play off of each other.  They’re at the opposite ends of the spectrum in how they think and behave, and it’s Victoria who bears the brunt of changing to adapt to circumstances.  Given that she’s the one who is out of her element, this makes sense.  It also allows some of Cora’s personality to come through, anchoring readers to how she was portrayed in the first book.

The plot of She Returns from War pulled together its supernatural elements much more smoothly.  The New Mexico setting provides the perfect backdrop for the Native American skinchanger, and she’s written such that her association with a creature from Cora’s past is logical.  The plot also relies more on action and backstory than on a plot twist, the way the first novel did.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the twist in Dead of Winter, but it’s not something an author can pull twice in a row without feeling gimmicky.  Letting this story run straight through without any tricks was a wise choice.  And this novel’s plot is strong enough that it doesn’t need to play with its readers.  All the various threads are woven together quite well and tighten into a fully formed tapestry at the book’s climax.

The only problem that I had with this story is that it seemed to end rather abruptly.  The professed aim of Victoria’s trip isn’t dealt with by the book’s end, because it was sidetracked into a quest that involves Cora more than Victoria.  I’m hopeful that Collins will write another book to tie up those loose ends.

She Returns from War melds the stark and brutal beauty of the American West with some of its most tragic and shameful episodes and then adds in a dash of the fantastic.  Definitely not your typical “vampires and weird things” novel, Collins’s Cora Oglesby stories should appeal to those who like their fiction to take chances and strike out in directions not usually seen.

Also by this author: The Dead of Winter

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on May 29, 2013.

Series: Cora Oglesby
ISBN: 9780857662750
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page Count: 368
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Acquired: Personal purchase
Author Website
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