Valley of Shadows
by Rudy Ruiz
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Pub Date 20 Sep 2022 | Archive Date Not set
A visionary neo-Western blend of magical realism, mystery, and horror, Valley of Shadows sheds light on the dark past of injustice, isolation, and suffering along the US-Mexico border.
Solitario Cisneros thought his life was over long ago. He lost his wife, his family, even his country in the late 1870s when the Rio Grande shifted course, stranding the Mexican town of Olvido on the Texas side of the border. He’d made his brooding peace with retiring his gun and badge, hiding out on his ranch, and communing with horses and ghosts. But when a gruesome string of murders and kidnappings ravages the town, pushing its volatile mix of Anglo, Mexican, and Apache settlers to the brink of self-destruction, he feels reluctantly compelled to confront both life, and the much more likely possibility of death, yet again.
As Solitario struggles to overcome not only the evil forces that threaten the town but also his own inner demons, he finds an unlikely source of inspiration and support in Onawa, a gifted and enchanting Apache-Mexican seer who champions his cause, daring him to open his heart and question his destiny.
As we follow Solitario and Onawa into the desert, we join them in facing haunting questions about the human condition that are as relevant today as they were back then: Can we rewrite our own history and shape our own future? What does it mean to belong to a place, or for a place to belong to a people? And, as lonely and defeated as we might feel, are we ever truly alone?
Through luminous prose and soul-searching reflections, Rudy Ruiz transports readers to a distant time and a remote place where the immortal forces of good and evil dance amidst the shadows of magic and mountains.
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Author website: RudyRuiz.com
Also available: The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez
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Average rating from 9 members
Lots Going on Here
There is so much going on in this novel that it takes a bit of effort to unpack it all. Set in 1883 on the Mexico/Texas border, the book has been described as a "visionary neo-Western", and that characterization captures some of its flavor. This isn't just a Zane Grey or Owen Wister oater, or an ambitious, more literary, horse opera. It feels much more like the basic outline of that sort of book has been laid out, but then embellished, improvised on, and extended to create something much more ambitious and interesting.
And so, you get, (in descending order of how dominant an ingredient it is) -- an historical fiction, a mystery, a western sheriff procedural, a colorful/dusty western adventure, a sweet and gentle romance, a Mexico/U.S.A. history lesson, a cultural tour, a ghosts and spirits story, and a horror/occult tale. This is set against a background that fluctuates between magical realism and gritty slice of life realism. And it all is meant to put our hero's existential angst into high relief. It helps that our hero's brooding isolation makes sense, and that the reader is sympathetic to his plight. If that's "neo-Western" I'm all for it.
The writing can be lyrical, thrilling, or evocative. To be fair, it can also be a bit clunky and repetitive, and the author sometimes has to rely on character monologuing and narrative explication to keep the story moving or to make a cultural point. I suppose that's a small price to pay when you get a romance, a multicultural tour, occult horror, mysticism, ghosts, history, gunplay, barn burning, revolution, family curses, and heroic suffering all in one book.
So, I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I picked this up, but Ruiz didn't let me down, and I liked his new style Western.
(Please note that I received a free ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
I found this one interesting—a blend of western, magic realism, mystery, and a touch of horror—it kept my attention and surprised me on a number of occasions. It dealt head on with the effects of Mexican American border changes in the 1860s and 1870s and the ever-present racism and injustice to both Mexican and indigenous populations. The story follows a run of graphic murders starting with the local sheriff and his family—pulling the gifted former rurales, Solitario Cisneros, back to the town of Olvido to investigate.
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