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Monday, December 17, 2012

The Dead Of Winter by Lee Collins (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order The Book HERE
Read the first three chapters HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Lee Collins is a pseudonym and the author was born and brought up near to the Rocky Mountains. He has studied creative writing at Colorado State University. Upon graduation, he worked as an editorial intern for a local magazine before securing a desk job with his alma mater. Lee’s short fiction has appeared in Ensorcelled and Morpheus Tales, the latter of which awarded him second place in a flash fiction contest. In 2009, a friend challenged him to participate in National Novel Writing Month, and the resulting manuscript became his debut novel, The Dead of Winter. In his spare minutes between writing and shepherding graduate students at his day job, Lee still indulges in his oldest passions: books and video games. He and his girlfriend currently live in Colorado.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Cora and her husband Ben 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.

CLASSIFICATION: The Cora Oglesby series is a historical fantasy series that combines the Wild West settings with a nice slice of atmospheric horror.

FORMAT/INFO: The Dead Of Winter is 379 pages long divided over eighteen chapters, an epilogue and an Acknowledgments page. Narration is in the third-person via Cora Oglesby, Matt Duggan, Jack Evans, Washington Jones, Boots the bartender and Fodor Glava.

November 27, 2012 marked the paperback and e-book publication of The Dead of Winter via Angry Robot Books. The cover art is by Chris McGrath.

ANALYSIS: Lee Collins’ debut was one that I almost missed out on. I had gotten hold of an e-copy earlier however due to work and my TBR pile, kept on passing it over. But I kept seeing praise about it on twitter and with me being in a recent book slump of sorts, I decided to take a look at it. It began a bit slowly but I’m glad I took a chance on it as I think I’ve discovered another debut that might make the year-end lists.

The book begins in 1883 in Colorado and features Cora and Ben Oglesby. They both are bounty hunters who hunt vampires and have been successfully doing so for more than a decade. As they are passing through the small settlement of Leadville in Colorado, they are beseeched to save the settlement from a mysterious animal that has been killing the poor folk. With their fees being settled, Cora and Ben get down to their job only to find out that the creature they are hunting might not be their usual supernatural quarry. Things get even hairier as they find out what they might be against. The plot then has them dealing with further problems as they make the acquaintance of a British vampire hunting academic who tells them of a problem infesting his lord’s mines. Its up to Cora and Ben to make light amid all the problems and save themselves as well as all the people around them.

This debut is one that stands out because of its settings and mixing of genres in the main storyline. On one hand it’s a historical fantasy but it also has some elements of horror to it and lastly it also has some very potent characterization to it in regards to the main characters. Lets get to the meat of it then, kudos to the author for writing this story and placing it in the western setting as the tagline suggests, “True Grit meets True Blood”. This tagline is pitch perfect and sums up the book with near perfection. The story’s pace is also something that isn’t the fastest but never slackens and does its best to keep the reader hooked. Also the plot twists as well as the author’s descriptive prose help in enriching the read and making sure that it does not seem as a run-of-mill debut. The main character of Cora Oglesby is absolutely a treat to read about. Being a tough no-nonsense woman in a male-dominated field has earned her a reputation as “Mad Madam”. She strives to do her best and truly is a wonder to behold when she’s doing what she does best. While Ben acts as the smooth glove to her iron fisted approach, their team has acquired a legendary name of sorts within the western towns. The author has given birth to a very fascinating character and the grit she showcases is simply brilliant to read.

Next there is one wild twist that occurs near the middle of the story for which the author has to be applauded. While it’s not completely easy to anticipate, the reader will probably notice some irregularities for them to give it a thought. Though the end result might not be the same, kudos to the author adding this to the story to make that much more interesting. Lastly the setting and pace of the story is such that the readers are constantly kept on the edge and this book is one that will have the readers coming back for seconds, thirds and much more. There are also various nods to history and several small factoids that are smartly incorporated in the story. I particularly enjoyed this debut and feel that this would make a truly fun cinematic experience be it in the form of a movie or even a TV series.

Not that that this debut is flawless, firstly it takes a while to get things in place and the first 50 odd pages, the readers might feel a little lost with all the happenings. Be assured that its done on purpose and I would recommend that readers pay particular attention to the happenings as otherwise you’ll be scrambling back to these pages when the twist is revealed. Lastly the plot has two main threads to it and while the first one ends in the middle before leading on to the second, the transition doesn’t go as smoothly as the author envisions.

CONCLUSION: Lee Collins marks himself out with his debut that has an eclectic mix of genres and some pretty terrific prose and characterization to dazzle readers with. I was pleasantly surprised by this book and for those readers who are on the fence about this book, my advice is to get off it as quickly as you can and read this one, as its ingenuity will mark itself out among the year end lists and the minds of readers.


Camille Picott said...

The Western setting brings to mind Firefly and Cowboys vs. Aliens, both of which I love! I'm definitely adding this to my TBR list.

Christoph Weber said...

Just finish the review... in time for the second part of the Cora Oglesby Series. I really loved The Dead of Winter. A nice story with some twists and a colorful character in Cora Oglesby...

Christoph Weber said...

What a fun read! The story has twists and is fast-paced and of course, the very colorful lead character Cora Oglesby helps a lot...

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