Silver on the Road
Book 1 of The Devil’s West
by Laura Anne Gilman (2015)
On her sixteenth birthday, Isobel chooses to work for the devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you know. He’s a being with immense but limited power, who deals fairly with people looking for a deal, and who makes sure they get what they deserve. His wild west needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in.
Trained to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy sets out to learn the ways of the territory. She will find herself, and what it means to be the devil’s hand, on the endless road.
Silver on the Road delivers an original fantasy in the endless plains and arid foothills of the Old West. If you like a western setting, you’ll love. Landscapes are perfectly rendered and beautifully described. The grammar and prose is just rural enough to feel natural, without ever leaving you to decipher chicken scratch dialogue. You’ll get a feel for life on the road, from the sway in the saddle to the daily rituals of camp and campfire.
But it’s not just the stunning setting that makes Silver on the Road a worthy read. Izzy, the devil’s hand, and Gabriel, an experienced rider who shows her the ropes, are nuanced characters to travel with. Their friendship evolves slowly, through shared silences and long miles. It’s a joy to see characters brought to life without the need for much dialogue, as they learn to read each other’s actions through experience.
The fantasy element is subtle, almost magical realism. It’s embedded in the land, in the traditions of unclaimed territory and the road that leads across it. For much of the story, it’s possible to not take much notice of the magical forces that shape events. But as Izzy and Gabriel track down a strange darkness come to the territory, they face forces more comfortably in the realm of heroic fantasy. It’s a slow-paced read, but richly rewarding for its realistic characters and rich settings.
* Old West historical setting
* Vivid descriptions and subtle magic
* Believable characters that bond through shared experiences
If you like Silver on the Road
You might also enjoy:
The Girl With Ghost Eyes – Strong fantasy heroine in a unique historical setting that comes to life on the page. Read my review.
Walk on Earth a Stranger – Rich historical fantasy during the California Gold Rush
Under a Painted Sky – Historical fiction of two girls, a Chinese immigrant and a runaway slave, on the trail during the California Gold Rush. (No fantasy elements.)