Lee Collins’ “Cora Oglesby” series has been described as True Grit meets True Blood. It’s a western that takes place during the Old West gold rush, but it includes paranormal creatures such as vampires, hellhounds, and wendigos. Cora and her husband Ben are bounty hunters that focus on the supernatural beasties. The series has a dry humor and an in your face heroine in the form of Cora. She doesn’t take lip from anyone and lives up to the reputation she has developed as a badass. She can sling guns, play cards, and drink whiskey with the best of them. I absolutely loved this series (is there going to be another book, Mr. Collins???) and found Cora to such an interesting main character. I recommend this series to all paranormal readers, especially those that are looking for something a little different from the normal urban tropes.
Christal’s Review – 4.5 Skulls – A
The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins introduced a gritty new world and a tough-as-nails heroine. I really liked the western elements, especially the flow of the language, and thought that the characters were wonderfully drawn. Cora might be tough to love at first, but she slowly chips away at your heart until you can’t help but root for her. I really enjoyed this debut adventure and can’t wait to see what else Mr. Collins has in store for her.
Cora Oglesby is not a lady. She’s a tough-talking, whiskey-drinking, monster-hunting badass. She is coarse and doesn’t change her personality for anyone, but she has a good heart underneath all her gruffness. She doesn’t like to see innocents hurt and does her best to prevent it. On the flip side, her husband Ben is quiet and prefers books to people. They have a way with each other that was very sweet without being outwardly affectionate. Though Cora tends to overpower Ben with her loudness and the force of her personality, he is a cool strength at her back. There is a twist with Cora and Ben’s relationship that I did not see coming at the beginning, but I’m not going to spoil the reveal here. Needless to say, it came as a very emotional surprise to me but I understood why Mr. Collins had the situation play out that way.
The story itself became more than first expected as well. When Cora and Ben first pull into Leadville, they are investigating a monster that seems to be eating the locals. What they find is a wendigo and, after some religious investigating, they learn how to kill it. That problem is wrapped up early on in the story, around 40%, but we are left with a lot of pages. What happens after that harkens back to Cora and Ben’s previous encounter with a vampire nest outside of Denver and someone who is looking to get revenge on our deadly duo for the part they played. The story transitions between the current happenings and flashbacks to that day ten years ago when Cora and Ben faced down the nest.
The book is told through third-person prerogative and is mainly focused from Cora’s view, though the story is rounded out by the other characters from time to time. I enjoyed being in Cora’s hard and thought she had a stong, defined, and instantly recognizable voice. It was nice to see an older, more mature female lead take front and center and still be as capable as any young buck. Father Baez, the priest that assists Cora, was also an intriguing character. He wasn’t really a fighter himself, but her had an internal strength and solid belief in his faith that played as a nice counterpoint to Cora’s more physical power.
The big bad aka nosferatu, Fodor Glava, was sufficiently menacing and deadly. It was nice to see evil vampires again; their depictions here were more like the original Dracula story. Fodor had a grudge against Cora and he would do anything it took to break her mentally and steal her soul. I liked how Mr. Collins created the contrast between the higher-developed nosferatu and the more beast-like vrykolakas.
This story ended with very few loose ends and we have a good grasp on what Cora will be doing in her immediate future, but I am very excited for the next book and the chance to ride with the legendary Cora Oglesby once more.
Christal’s Review – 4 Skulls – A-
Lee Collins took a risk with She Returns to War and gave us an entirely new narrator. We’re still treated to Cora’s brand of wit and snark, but we see the story through the eyes of young Victoria Dawes. While it took a little while to settle into Victoria’s head, I think the change was ultimately successful. Having an outside perspective gave new weight to Cora’s actions and decisions. It allowed us to see her as the legend that she is without the self-depreciation she tends to attribute to her deeds.
I ended up liking Victoria (or Vicky as Cora called her) and enjoyed seeing her grow her a prissy, young lady into someone comfortable with the rough frontier life. She didn’t back down from challenges and was a fast learner. She and Cora developed a nice rapport, though Cora was always the one with the upper hand. Her ability to spirit walk was an interesting inclusion, but I wish it had been developed more or at least explained a little better.
While I did miss Cora’s narration, I thought her story line here was fantastic. We start the story with Cora settled as a bar owner and turning down Vicky’s request to hire her. She has retired from the monster hunting life and made peace with the events of the previous book. When Vicky mentions a name from Cora’s past, all those old memories are stirred up and Cora agrees to one more ride. Cora and Vicky are not only facing an enemy from The Dead of Winter, but they are also on the wrong side of a Navajo skinwalker. The women end up having to depend upon one another for survival and the mentor-student relationship between Vicky and Cora was nicely done. It was entertaining to watch Vicky earn Cora’s grudging respect.
While this book has a definite and heartbreaking ending, I see plenty of storylines that Mr. Collins could choose to follow in the future. I really enjoyed this series and would love more novels in the setting. Whether he decides to write more Cora Oglesby novels or move onto a new and unique project, I know it will be good and I’m very excited to see what Mr. Collins comes up with next. I highly recommend this series!
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