Territory, by Emma Bull

70581I hate to say it, but Emma Bull’s Territory is, ultimately, a pretty disappointing story. She could have done a lot more with this story, but the ending ruins the whole thing. If you don’t want spoilers, you can stop reading here.

Territory is set in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881. Those who know their history will recognize that 1881 is when the Earp-Cowboy feud gets started. To this rich setting, Bull adds an interesting sort of magic to spice things up. The story is told in three parts, to build suspense as the different magicians marshal their forces. Mildred Benjamin, a widow who works for a newspaper, serves as a love interest for one of the other narrators and as an explication aid. She sets the scene, meets the major players, and helps piece together the story for the reader, in her role as a nascent reporter. Another part of the story is narrated by Jesse Fox, a mysterious stranger with magical abilities. He intended to stop through Tombstone to visit a friend before heading on to Mexico, but ends up getting tangled up in the Earp/Cowboy mess. The last narrator is Doc Holliday. Bull doesn’t make the best use of him as a narrator, unfortunately. Holliday doesn’t have much to do but be pushed around by Wyatt Earp.

The plot roughly follows the escalation of the Feud. But it stops well short of what I would have thought would be the natural climax of the story, the O.K. Corral shootout. That ending would have been spectacular with the addition of magic. I was really looking forward to it, but the book just ends with Fox hexing Wyatt Earp before moving on with Mildred. This book could have been really good if Bull had just gone that little bit more.

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