Cora Oglesby: She Returns From War by Lee Collins – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews She Returns From War, the second novel by Lee Collins, an urban-fantasy-western follow up to The Dead of Winter, published by Angry Robot.
“A fun and entertaining ride through the really wild west.” ~The Founding Fields
So, the second novel in the Cora Oglesby series is certainly interesting. Whilst it may not be as good as The Dead of Winter, which was a superb debut, it didn’t quite match the high-quality set by The Dead of Winter which is a bit of a let down. However, there are still strong elements about this novel and you should not pass it up.
Four years after the horrific events in Leadville, a young woman from England, Victoria Dawes, sets into motion a series of events that will lead Cora and herself out into the New Mexico desert in pursuit of Anaba, a Navajo witch bent on taking revenge for the atrocities committed against her people.
As the blurb states, it’s set four years after the Leadville incident detailed in The Dead of Winter and if anyone hasn’t read that book first and is reading this review, I highly recommend you read that book before reading any further. Cora’s character is really fleshed out in The Dead of Winter, but here she’s not as enjoyable, maybe because the POV is dominated by Victoria Dawes, who makes a very interesting counterpart to the eccentric Cora Oglesby.
One of the main reasons why this book wasn’t as good as the first is the reason mentioned above, Cora isn’t anywhere near as likable as she is when she’s the main character of book one. There are some places in the book where I couldn’t stand her, and I was somewhat glad that Victoria Dawes was a strong lead. But, she doesn’t really have the same memorability that Cora had in The Dead of Winter, and as a result of that, the novel itself isn’t as strong as it should be.
In comparison to The Dead of Winter, the plot of She Returns From War is largely straightforward. It’s still entertaining, the action and the world building and the pace is strong, but the plot suffers. It’s not as unpredictable as The Dead of Winter which boasted an ending so powerful that I had to put down the book for a few moments and think “Did that just happen?”. The descriptions that were good throughout The Dead of Winter return here and as mentioned before Collins really lets us get to know the world that we’re in. Whilst this is technically a historical fantasy novel, similar to that of The Alchemist of Souls (which is set in a different time period – I’m only mentioning it because it’s the same genre) by Anne Lyle. Something that Angry Robot novels in general seem to be very good at is taking the historical approach and adding that extra bit of fantasy to it – Dan Abnett’s Triumff is another example although that is more Alternate History than Historical Fantasy.
There’s an interesting mix of creatures added to She Returns From War, and although Vampires return, there’s still new elements – the Navajo Witch mentioned in the blurb is fresh and exciting, and doesn’t seem too cliched. The setting itself is what sets it apart from the wealth of novels featuring supernatural hunters out there on the market today, and whilst we’ve seen many modern day urban fantasy novels featuring hunters I haven’t yet come across a one set in the western genre.
What also makes this novel unique is that the variety of settings that this book takes place in – we get not only portions of action in England, but also the majority of the setting takes place in New Mexico. The settings really add to the enjoyment and whilst this book may be weaker than the first, it shouldn’t be passed up on.