Posted by : atcampbell | On : June 16, 2009

Territory by Emma Bull

We had thirteen readers at this meeting held at the Milwood Library, including one first-time attendee. Our topic was Territory by Emma Bull, a fantasy Western set in Tombstone, Arizona that features Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. Five of us had read Emma Bull’s work before. All of us started Territory, ten finished it, and the rest planned to finish.

One reader thoroughly enjoyed the book. She said that she doesn’t normally read Westerns, but she read this book because she likes Emma Bull. She thought the concept of magic in the Old West had not been overdone. She liked the horse content, and felt the scene of breaking a horse was important in character development. She liked Mildred the reporter and the interplay with her coworkers.

Another felt this was the best book we’d read in a long time. He liked reading about printing and typesetting. The curse in this book was the best example he could remember ever reading.  His only disappointment was that the book ended abruptly, clearly calling for a sequel.

This led to another member speculating that the abrupt ending meant that this starting off as one book. He felt that there was not nearly enough payoff at the end. He noted that a major trope of the book is a character finding his or her talent.

One reader consulted Wikipedia while reading the book and was surprised how much of the story tracked with history. She enjoyed the scenes of Tombstone’s Chinatown. Some called this book a “secret history” for how it plays with our expectations of the historical characters.

Other elements that people liked were the Earth magic and the quilting scenes.

Several people complained about this book’s lack of action, particularly for a Western. So much of the interesting stuff happens offstage that one reader compared it to a Greek play. Another reader called it a “cozy Western”.

We liked the author’s writing. Her prose style was clear and effective, and the storytelling  did a good job planting bits and pieces to set up the story.

Overall we liked this book a great deal. After the meeting, many of us had a nice dinner at Fuddrucker’s.

—A. T. Campbell, III