cover image Nine of Stars: A Wildlands Novel

Nine of Stars: A Wildlands Novel

Laura Bickle. Harper Voyager, $7.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-243766-2

Petra Dee, the intrepid geologist/alchemist heroine of Bickle’s Dark Alchemy e-book series, makes her print debut (alongside spirit-coyote companion Sig) in this gripping weird west adventure. The ghost of Skinflint Jack has risen to haunt Yellowstone National Park’s wolves, and it’s up to Petra to end his violence—with some help from Gabe, the love of her life, who up until recently was mortal. But meddling from the local sheriff and an untimely leukemia diagnosis throw all of Petra’s well-laid plans into jeopardy. Readers new to Bickle’s world will have no difficulty following the plot; the first few chapters are exposition-heavy, but Bickle does an excellent job of letting her characters speak for themselves and blending realistic, grounded conflicts with her supernatural plot. It’s particularly pleasant to see Petra’s day job as a scientist have real value in resolving fantastical conflicts. Also of note is Bickle’s respectful treatment of Native American spirituality amid the otherwise European notions of alchemy that make up the backbone of the magic system in the central setting of Temperance, Wyo. The book ends with a cliff-hanger that will make fans and newcomers alike sit up and demand a sequel. Bickle is well on her way to establishing her work as a cornerstone of her genre. Agent: Becca Stumpf, Prospect. (Dec.)