We’re participating in the Fangs, Fur & Fey Giveaway Hop, and our giveaway is fangs related. Cue the evil book reviewer’s laugh. Thanks to the publisher, we’re reviewing and giving away an advance readers copy (ARC) of The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins. The book cover says it all: “True Grit meets True Blood.” Yep, this novel is alternate history – a Western with strong elements of paranormal fantasy and some horror thrown in for bump-in-the-night thrills. Hang on tight, it’s going to be a bumpy funhouse ride.
Cora grew up in the South but never really considered herself a Southern Belle. After the Civil War, there was nothing left of the homeplace, so she and her Confederate soldier husband, Ben Oglesby headed west to start a new life. Through a twist of fate they became bounty hunters of a sort. They don’t hunt regular badass criminals; they hunt the monsters. Silver bullets, holy water, and a lot of courage.
“Folk in her line of work were lucky to end up as a pile of scat after a bad hunt. She’d heard stories of turned hunters, those who went out looking for something and came back as the very thing they were hunting for…she’d made Ben swear to put her to rest should that ever happen. He had gone all teary-eyed when she said it, but he’d made the promise.”
They’ve just arrived in Leadville, Colorado, a silver mining town high up in the Rockies. Because of a previous job they performed for the town, and some fancy talking on Cora’s part, Marshall Duggan is begrudgedly willing to pay them to look into two wolfers (wolf hunters) who were killed – well, actually massacred and eviscerated – just outside of town. Nobody’s ever seen this kind of chaotic killing before. It doesn’t looks like vampires or werewolves.
“Whatever happened here had happened recently…Standing up again, Duggan surveyed the clearing. Bits of clothing and strips of dripping flesh dangled from the nearby branches, but there was nothing that resembled a body. Blood-spattered snow was heaped against the tree trunks, exposing strands of yellow grass.”
Just riding into the scene causes the hair to stand up on Cora’s arms. It’s cold enough in Colorado this time of year but the temperature suddenly drops even more drastically while they’re looking around. She tells Ben she’s got a bad feeling about the whole thing, so they head back into town.
“Cora crouched down, turning the broken branch this way and that. ‘Sure didn’t leave much by way of sign. Ain’t no claw marks or hairs or nothing.’
‘Guess that means it wasn’t no werewolf or hellhound,’ Ben said.
‘That’s too bad,’ Cora said. ‘I was hoping for something easy…’”
Father Baez, a priest in Denver who’s served as a reliable supernatural resource before, reaches out to his contacts. As a result, they learn they’re looking for a wendigo. They also learn just how hard those demonic creatures are to kill. Even with the appropriate tribal blessed equipment, Cora almost doesn’t survive tangling with this nasty spidery-looking monster and several of the townspeople aren’t as lucky as she is.
After resting a day or so in Leadville, and collecting their pay, Ben and Cora are happy to be leaving the town behind. Ben wants to set up a print shop and settle down somewhere for good – no more bounty hunting and living on the edge of a knife. Unfortunately the local silver mine owner makes them a proposition Cora can’t resist.
A nest of vampires has been discovered in his mine and the miners who haven’t been killed or turned are rightfully refusing to go back into the mine. Although the owner has the vampires barricaded inside temporarily, there’s an unknown aspect to this job. An ancient highly intelligent vampire, a nosferatu, is leading the nest. The owner is happy to pay Ben and Cora handsomely to not only wipe out the nest but especially to give the nosferatu his final death. That money will let them open a print shop, so how can they turn it down?
“James turned to face her, his earlier animosity forgotten in his scholarly delight. “Much like moths, vampires have two distinct stages of life. The first stage, vrykolakas, is by far the more common type, so it is little wonder you are ignorant of any other.”
“He [James] took a breath. ‘The second type of vampire, and by far the more fearsome, is a creature we call the nosferatu.’”
Will they and/or the town and/or the miners survive the canny nosferatu or even the nest of younger ravenous vampires? What secrets from the past will come back to haunt them?
Cora is one kick-butt heroine with a mouth like a sailor, so obviously I admired the hell out of her! The Colorado mountains are filled with all kinds of colorful characters who provide comic relief as well as colorful language and Wild West action. I’m not going to tell you much about Ben, except that he balances her beautifully and she loves him more than life itself. I even liked the priests and I don’t usually like priests in novels, an admitted personal bias. And the villains – damn, these are some nasty paranormal villains! They gave me the same kind of shudders I get from the worst of the True Blood villains.
Lee Collins has a winner on his hands with The Dead of Winter! The Wild West just got a whole hell of a lot wilder! I’m not exaggerating when I say I was glued to it from Page 1 – another night with very little sleep but who cares? Now I’m looking forward to the next book in this series, She Returns from War, which I believe is coming out in February, 2013. I’m already plotting about how to get my hands on a copy asap!
Can’t wait to read it?
The Dead of Winter will be published in the U.S. on October 30, 2012 and in the UK on November 1, 2012, but it should be available for pre-order from your favorite online bookseller now. Just click the button to go there to get it.
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One lucky reader will win an ARC of The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins!
Once you’ve entered our giveaway, be sure to click on the link just below the Rafflecopter form so you can check out all the other fang, fur, and/or fey related book giveaways in this fun hop!
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 10/8/2012, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
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