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Silver On The Road
by Laura Anne Gilman
Saga Press, $26.95, 382pp
Published: October 2015

Discover the Devils West, an alternate North America set around 1800: We  are  mostly concerned with The Territory which is bounded by the Mudwater (Mississippi) on the East and the  Mother's Knife (Rocky Mountains) on the West and on the North by the Northern Wilds (Canada and a piece of Wisconsin) and on the South by the Spanish Protectorate (including Texas and wrapping around to California, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming.)

The  Territory is run by the Devil headquartered in a town named Flood. Our chief character is sixteen-year-old Isobel who was indentured to the Devil as a small child. Her indenture is up and she must decide whether to take a contract with the Devil or go out on her own. She is torn but takes the plunge telling the devil she wants to work directly for him rather than be a worker is his gambling den and  saloon. She gets more than she planned. He signs her (her signature in blood) as the Left Hand of the Devil and sends her out as his trouble shooter.  She acquires a mentor, a crazy magician and others in travel. She encounters Native Americans, Demons, Monks and an Evil Storm coming from the West. All are her responsibility to deal with.

The characters are compelling. Isobel is strong and true and grows into the role of Devil's Left Hand. Her mentor, Gabriel Kasun is rider on Roads of The Territory. Educated in law east of The Muddywater in the United States, he had returned to The Territory as one does when bound to the land. The Devil promised him peace if he mentored Isobel. He is determined that she survive. The Mad Magician, Farron Easterly was crafted well. He has his own motives and is completely untrustworthy. The saying was (loosely phrased) “If you see a magician, run.” Isobel made him one of their party. The Devil's Hand chooses her tools well from what is available. The Monks have their own agenda and would burn Flood and slay The Devil's Minions if they could. Isobel takes them along also.

The landscape of the high plains heading up to Colorado is vividly and accurately described. The Roads, the sky and the sun and winds are painted vividly.

This is a book I will read again. It is compelling and  wonderful. Laura Anne Gilman has much more to offer. Check out lauraannegilman.net.  ~~ Gary L. Swaty

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