The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins

Dead of Winter
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(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Cora and her husband hunt things – things that shouldn’t exist. When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious deaths, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible, but if Cora is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, she must first confront her own tragic past as well as her present.”

I haven’t read many supernatural/western crosses, but what I have read seems to also incorporate elements of steampunk as well.  While I like steampunk, I feel that it doesn’t always mesh well with the other two in combination.  The Dead of Winter kept away from steampunk and concentrated on the purely supernatural, which I liked a lot.  I would love to see more in this vein, because I think it’s an untapped source of some great stories.

And this is a pretty darn good story.  There’s a lot of focus on vampires, which is very common, but the author also pulls in a monster from Native American mythology, which I really liked.  Again, there are so many myths and legends that could be explored in fantastic fiction, and in this novel, we get a taste of those tales.  Collins does a bit of re-imagining on vampires too, differentiating nosferatu from more intelligent vampires.

Collins does a wonderful job at evoking a creepy atmosphere: snow-covered hillsides give off a chill aura of dread as moonlight casts spooky shadows; abandoned mines entrap with claustrophobic twists and turns; and even warm, well-lit rooms are no escape from the monsters.  There’s really no feeling of safety for our heroes in this novel, and it makes the tension all the stronger.

I was a little disappointed in the characterization.  Cora is the most developed character, which makes sense, but most of the others in the story don’t move much beyond two-dimensional background cast.  Still, there were a couple that I really wanted to know more about, most noticeably the priest to whom Cora turns for help a couple of times.  His exploits are hinted at during his interactions with Cora, and I’d love to see more of him.  Cora herself isn’t all that likeable, unfortunately.  She’s a strong character, but one that I think readers won’t initially feel much empathy for.  By about two thirds of the way through, that changes, but I wish I’d felt more connected to her earlier on.

And speaking of two thirds of the way through the novel, there’s quite a twist waiting for readers.  I admit that I didn’t see it coming, but I often get so into novels that I let them carry me along without doing too much critical thinking at the same time.  This book was no exception.  This twist is well set up in the earlier stages of the story, so I applaud the author for not tipping his hand too soon.

I blazed through this book in record time and found much to enjoy.  I’m looking forward to the second novel, which promises to be just as engrossing as the first.  The Dead of Winter is a great read for these cold nights as we transition into spring.

Also by this author: She Returns from War

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on March 23, 2013.

Series: Cora Oglesby
ISBN: 9780857662729
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page Count: 384
Publication Date: October 20, 2012
Acquired: Provided by the publisher
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