The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins – Book Review [Bane of Kings]


Bane of Kings writes a review of Lee Collins’ debut novel for Angry Robot books, a paranormal Western novel entitled The Dead of Winter.

“How do you make vampires more original? You put them in the Western genre. Collins has created a stunning debut here that is sure to entertain.” ~The Founding Fields

So, The Dead of Winter. What a heck of an enjoyable read, and Angry Robot continue to impress me with another stellar debut. The storyline is unique and engaging, and it moves along at a brisk pace. This is the first novel in the Cora Oglesby series and it did not disappoint - I loved every second of it.

Cora Ogelsby and her husband, Ben, hunt things – things that shouldn’t exist.

When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious, bloody deaths out in the badlands, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible. But if she is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, Cora must first confront her own tragic past.

Let’s start with discussing the characters. Cora and Ben are at the core of the novel and are the most developed characters here. Collins manages to make Cora a strong, lead character that is not one-dimensional, and he manages to have the novel lead a lasting effect on the characters involved, as well as the reader. An interesting choice by Collins was to make Cora and Ben a married couple, rather than a pair of  lone assassins, which I found to add an interesting element to the story. With She Returns From War coming soon as the next book in this series, you can count me in as a reader of that for certain. I enjoyed almost everything about The Dead of Winter, to the extent that there’s only one thing that I had an issue with (which I’ll touch on later).

The book itself is essentially written in two halves, and the first of which deals with the introduction of Cora and what a normal job would be like for her, whilst the second kicks things into gear and after developing Cora as a strong character and allowing the reader to fully understand her as a character, we’re thrust headlong into the action in the second half, and Collins’ pace doesn’t relent. It’s action-packed, and written with confidence and very entertaining.

But even The Dead of Winter is not perfect, with a large throw-in of info dumps and a certain overload on description somewhat slowed down the otherwise breakneck pace. We get a lot of explaining, lecturing etc – and it doesn’t always work in Collins’ favour. However, whatever issue that I had with this title didn’t detract me from the overall reading experience, particularly the ending – which was a twist that I didn’t see coming and I felt the ending was very powerful indeed. It’ll certainly catch you by surprise.

For those worrying about how a  paranormal / western genre will work, well – you’ll be pleased to discover that Collins has pulled it off great. I love a good Western, The Magnificent Seven being one of my favourite movies and Red Dead Redemption being one of my favourite video games. I do enjoy a good vampire novel as well when it’s not paranormal romance – Darren Shan’s YA vampire novels were superbly written back when I read them, that being one example, and another being that I loved the way how vampires are portrayed in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.

Vampires also play a key role  in my own urban fantasy novel for NaNoWriMo, and yeah, that just shows you that I don’t mind the good vampire film/book/other media that comes along every now and again. The Dead of Winter has certainly impressed me though, and I’ll be eagerly checking out the next work that Collins has to offer us.

Verdict: 4.5/5

Next Review: The Dagger and the Coin #2: The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham (Due 13 November 2012)

Bane of Kings is one our most senior book reviewers here at The Founding Fields, based in England. He’s a prolific reviewer that has contributed to many things here and around the internet.


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