Recommended Age: 15+
Genres: History, Comedy
Tags: Crime, Diversity, Gold rush, Romance, Satire, Werewolves
- Mild violence: Physical attacks and gun violence.
- Mild sexuality: Some brief kissing scenes.
It’s 1876 and the Wild West is a law unto itself, which essentially just means there are a lot of guns. Calamity Jane is part of the Wild Bill’s Wild West shows, traveling with Bill, Frank Butler, and their manager to entertain the masses with their gun and whip displays. But they’re not just entertainers. What most people don’t know is that these cowboys also hunt garous (werewolves). When Annie Oakley talks and shoots and pushes her way into the show, she’s all too comfortable with killing those nasty garous. But as they journey across the country, chasing after a cure for this hairy situation, each member of the show must learn new skills to face no man’s land.
“I don’t need a man, Mama. I have a gun.”
This series is spunky and sassy and just barely considered historical. The satire and fictionalizing historical figures named Jane shows the writers’ optimism as they imagine happier endings. There’s always a little magic involved, and much more practical opinions than I imagine were common back then. This group of writers clearly has so much fun writing these books and filling them with heartfelt friendships, feisty romances, and wacky situations.
In this case, Calamity Jane is a spunky sharpshooter in the late 1800s, performing in Wild West shows with Bill, of course, Frank Butler, and the famous Annie Oakley. The authors did their research on the history and events, then spun a story that suited them. They combine several Wild West tales and legends and throw some werewolves in the mix to create a spunky story about defying social constructs, finding your own family, and moving past prejudice.
This book is filled with many references and jokes to tropes and clichés, along with famous lyrics and stories. Everything feels delivered with a wink and a smirk. Historical satire is an entertaining niche, with many possibilities of how to twist a story. Jane’s spunk, and complete lack of patience with boys, is very amusing. Butler may be a complete lady’s man, but Jane’s “git lost” attitude is much more compelling to read. And of course we have Annie, a perky overachiever who is the best at everything. She can outshoot everyone in the most extravagant ways, all while wearing dresses she’s sewn and giving expert advice about any topic. Annie is always right, and she always always has her gun.
There are some more serious topics touched on, such as treatment of Native Americans, and how discrimination can affect a society. I always like when books take something fantastical, such as werewolves, and use that to show real problems in the world. This book makes it clear that these problems are not always fair, and the good guys don’t always win. They handle the sensitive topic of guns really well, especially for having their book released during a time when people won’t necessarily be receptive to a story about trigger happy characters.
The humor is fantastic, the characters are fun, and the plot is as wild as the west.
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