Silver on the Road (The Devil’s West #1) by Laura Anne Gilman

I picked this book up on the strength of the description alone and I wasn’t disappointed. I thought the characters were strong and the plot is fascinating. It was basically exactly what I wanted to read right now weirdly enough: A western dark fantasy.

On her sixteenth birthday, Isobel makes the choice to work for the devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you know. This is a being who deals fairly with immense—but not unlimited—power, who offers opportunities to people who want to make a deal, and makes sure they always get what they deserve. But his land is a wild west that needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in. Inadvertently trained by him to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy is raised to be his left hand and travel the circuitous road through the territory. As we all know, where there is magic there is power and chaos…and death.

The world that was created for this book is vast and complicated and yet it feels very lived in and realistic. Part of it might be because although it is a alternative United States where the Devil rules over the unsettled West, it still reflects the feeling of that time. It is a wild, lawless place where anything can happen. The towns Isobel visits along her path feel true to the time period and full of real people. There isn’t really anything I would describe in this book as cardboard or 2 dimensional which has been a real problem in the books I’ve been reading lately.

Speaking of Isobel, and all the other characters that inhabit this world, they are fantastic. At 16 years old, Isobel makes a very big decision to work for the Devil and it isn’t at all what she thought it would be. Isobel hoped to remain in Flood the town where she grew up, but the Devil has other ideas naming her his Left Hand and sending her out into the vast Territories to keep the peace. She is helped on this venture by what I would call the  secondary main character, Gabriel. He is a young man who comes into the Devil’s bar in Flood and leaves after making a bargain to protect Isobel. It was interesting to see their friendship develop over the course of the book. He is primarily a teacher and then later a friend. His job is to teach Isobel how to survive on The Road and to help her navigate her new job/abilities. He is a very dry character for me which made it a bit difficult to get into his narration sections in the book, but I ended up liking him quite a bit.

The plot of the book comes into better focus when we start to learn of ominous and terrifying things happening to settlers and towns around the territory. It was a pretty intriguing little mystery with some pretty fantastic set pieces. It really helps that the story is written very lyrically or poetically. Things happen that take on a very appropriately dream-like quality and I was a big fan of the writing in this book.

If I had to point to anything that annoyed me in the book it was the amount of whining Isobel does throughout the story. I get it, she’s 16 years old, but it can get pretty tiresome during some sections of this story. Also, this negativity means that she remains pretty passive throughout the whole story until the end when she finally steps up and fights back.

Overall, I really liked this book and I definitely recommend it! I’m certainly going to look for the second book soon.

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