Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman
I liked Gilman’s earlier “retrievers” and “paranormal investigators” urban fantasies, but it’s been a while since I read some her work. Silver on the Road is the first book in a new fantasy series, set in a weird wild west, and it is really good.
The story world is very strange, but worked out in loving detail. The time appears to correspond to the turn of the nineteenth century in our time line, though the area that is our Louisiana Purchase is occupied by magical forces that keep the Americans and Europeans from control. The Territory is (magically) controlled by a very magical being that is thought to be the devil, though that is pretty ambiguous.
The story follows young Isobel who, upon turning sixteen, takes service with the boss (who might be the devil), and is sent out on the road – a strange and dangerous trek, with little instruction—and an older man to mentor her. (And just who, exactly, is Gabriel, her mentor, and what was he promised for his service?)
Of course, Isobel was sent out because there is trouble afoot, and she is expected to deal with it. She must not only learn about roughing it on the road, she has to grow up mighty fast in the face of uncanny danger, and her own not-really-understood powers.
I found the story well plotted and the characters interesting and sympathetic. The magical elements are strange, scary, and beautiful. (Suspicious minds might note that Gilman seems to have a thing about highly talented young women mentored by older men.)
Given the gap in reading her works, I am struck that Gilman has matured and grown as a writer since the earlier stories I have read. I liked the earlier novels, but this one is even better. She still writes interestingly odd fantasy, but this novel is just so much better put together than the earlier stories.
A very good story, and I look forward to the sequel.
- Laura Anne Gilman, Silver on the Road, New York, Saga Press, 2015.
Sunday Book Reviews