Devil’s Call—J. Danielle Dorn, 2017. 4/5
Witches roam the wild west in this beguiling tale of magic, vengeance, and one tough-as-nails enchantress.
A wild child in her youth, Li Lian grew up sheltered by her extended family of female witches.
Along comes a gentle Mexican War veteran who unexpectedly steals her heart and together they wind up in Nebraska Territory, where Li Lian is pregnant with their first child.
When her husband is killed by a trio of travelers, Li Lian and an unexpected ally pursue them from New Orleans to the badlands of South Dakota and beyond. But dark portents along their trail suggest that the leader of the bad guys may be more than a match for Li Lian’s powers.
Devil’s Call takes a simple storyline—the typical revenge western—and neatly and believably weaves it together with a story of practicing Scottish witches. Instead of seeming forced, this works. It makes the western theme feel fresh and adds an unexpected layer of depth. Readers are treated to the best of multiple genres: ancient magic worked by powerful female characters, and good, old-fashioned western shoot-outs.
The story’s success rests in its narrator. Li Lian chronicles the tale herself, recording details past and present for her unborn child. Her voice rings true in best tradition of oral storytellers. We root for her. She’s a fierce heroine. We empathize with her love, her loss, and her avenging spirit. We hear her regrets in the things says—and doesn’t say. We get tantalizing glimpses of her magical heritage that leave us wanting to know more about her world.
Devil’s Call is an unusual, effective mashup: a whip-quick, exciting read that will resonate even after you put it down.