First, a qualifier. I know Laura Anne Gilman and I got an advance reader copy of the book from her because I whined and moaned. I’d heard her read from it at an SFWA reading and I so wanted to have a chance at it as soon as possible. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact I already want to read it again.
What’s the book? Titled Silver on the Road, it’s the first in The Devil’s West series. Here’s description of it:
A heroic fantasy by an award-winning author about a young woman who is trained in the art of the sinister hand of magic, but at what price?
Isobel, upon her sixteenth birthday, makes the choice to work for the devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you know. This is a being who deals fairly with immense—but not unlimited—power, who offers opportunities to people who want to make a deal, and they always get what they deserve. But his land is a wild west that needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in. Inadvertently trained by him to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy is raised to be his left hand and travel circuit through the territory. As we all know, where there is magic there is chaos…and death.
Now first, don’t go making the mistake that this is YA because Isobel is 16. It isn’t. It’s a coming of age story, a story of becoming (and not just for Isobel) and a story of change and exploration.
Set in The Territory, where magic is normal and the world is very dangerous, Isobel travels with her mentor, Gabriel, to learn about the territory and The Road. On their journey, they uncover something dangerous and evil and must attempt to deal with it, for Isobel is the Devil’s Left Hand, and while she doesn’t know what that means at first, she has to learn.
There’s so much I love about this book. The characters have such depth. The writing is deft and rich and I could smell and practically touch everything inside. It’s well researched, which you only notice because you can immerse so deep into the world and the story. The deftness of the story-telling left me a little breathless with envy. Especially conversations.
There’s not a lot of religion in the book, though the devil is there, as are some monks from Spain. It’s more about the west and the Territory’s own peculiar rules and habits. It turns history on its head and makes it both utterly familiar and entirely new.
I’ve read Laura Anne’s other books. I like them. A lot. But this is a whole new level of writing for her and it’s truly stunning. If I sound like I’m gushing, it’s because it’s one of those books that you want to pass around to everybody you know to read and you want to put it up for awards because it’s just that good. So do yourself a favor and get a copy. Read it. Savor it. I did. I will again. It releases on October 6th. So go get yourself signed up. I promise you won’t regret it.