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Review: Terror at Tierra de Cobre – Michael Merriam

Terror at Tierra de Cobre - Michael Merriam

Genre: Horror, Western, Weird West

Reviewer: Beáta

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About The Book

An ancient evil has awakened… Strong women, ancient magic and the walking dead make for a heady mix.

In Michael Merriam’s tale, seven women are called to protect a small mining town in the New Mexico Territory, Tierra De Cobre, against an evil that has killed or stolen the town’s men and is twisting the souls of the townswomen. The Sihuanaba is part siren, part shapeshifter, possessed of the body of a beautiful woman, her face a horse’s skull with flaming eyes.

Once she is freed from her copper prison in the mine, she feeds off the miners to regain her strength, then consumes or twists all the men who come to rescue them. Maria Garcia, recently widowed and quietly fierce, has the answer: hire women to fight the monster. And they do.

Taking the classic Western “The Magnificent Seven” as a jumping off point, the town’s defenders are assembled, all women from wildly different backgrounds, united by one mission: to defend the town and defeat the Sihuanaba. All the odds are against them, the price of failure is death or worse and all they have is each other.

The Review

In the old American West, the little mining town of Tierra de Cobre is haunted by an ancient evil, unleashed by the miners working in the local copper mine. It kills all the men it comes in touch with, and reanimates their corpses to use as servants.

The women of Tierra de Cobre are at the end of their wits, as all the mercenaries they send after it keep getting killed and enslaved. However, only men seem to be affected, and so they put together a band of women: The famous gunslinger Abigail Long, the sorceress Sofia Podany, the couple Ophelia and Elizabeth (a gunslinger and a sorceress), local woman Maria Garcia, newspaper reporter Clara Dashelle, and Apache outlaw Kira. Together, they will face whatever haunts Tierra de Cobre, before its influence can spread any further.

This book is part of Michael Merriam’s Six Guns & Sorcery Series, a series of independent novellas set in an alternate American West filled with steampunk gadgets and magic. All parts of the series are independent stories, and can be read as stand-alone.

It’s pulp. I don’t know what else to say about it, this is EXACTLY the kind of story you’d expect to find at a newspaper stand, where you buy something fun and sensational to serve as light entertainment.

I must stress that I don’t mean this to be taken negatively. Far from it. Pulp stories have a long and rich tradition, and have originated some of the most famous and memorable heroes in US-American culture. Westerns especially have, and continue to be, popular as pulp novels, but unfortunately, most of those are very white and very male.

Not so Tierra de Cobre, which has an all-female cast, most of whom are queer, and over half of whom are people of color. If it does anything to subvert conventional tropes and genre conventions, then I am unfortunately not well-versed enough in this genre to notice (while I do try and read pulp novels from time to time, those are usually masked vigilantes, not Westerns).

But there is also real value in following genre conventions while having an inclusive cast of characters. How well Merriam succeeds in that, is something I’d rather leave to actual Western fans to judge.

But it was a good read. I had a lot of fun with it.

The Reviewer

Beáta Fülöp is an aspiring filmmaker and writer. She identifies as aromantic and asexual, and has an autistic Special Interest in the representation of minorities. One day, she will use this knowledge in her own stories. Until then, she is happy to sit here and give her opinion on other people’s hard work.