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Coyote Cowgirl
Kim Antieau
Forge, 288 pages

Coyote Cowgirl
Kim Antieau
Kim Antieau was born in Louisiana, was raised up in Michigan, and has wandered the West with her husband poet Mario Milosevic for twenty years or more, sometimes living in the desert within wailing distance of La Llorona, more often residing in the Pacific Northwest near ancient forests. She is also a librarian and researcher whose avocation is folklore, myths, and legends.

Kim Antieau Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

When she was 5, Jeanne Les Flambeaux heard a crystal skull speaking to her and made the mistake of telling her father. Although she's now a young adult, her family is still watching for signs that she'll go crazy like her grandmother.

She's sane so far, but definitely a screw-up. Amid her talented and outgoing relatives, Jeanne is a defended loner, going through the motions of helping her family run a tony Scottsdale restaurant without showing the faintest interest in cooking -- or anything else.

It's not until her deadbeat cousin Johnny tricks Jeanne and steals a priceless family antique, that she is galvanized into action. Jeanne chases him to Los Vegas, determined to get that heirloom back before her family finds out. And she has an unexpected ally. The crystal skull is talking to her again.

It's even giving her recipes. Eventually, this skinny young woman who can't boil water discovers that when she turns her hand to cooking it is -- literally -- magic.

Coyote Cowgirl is a humourous romp across the American Southwest, part magical realism, part mystery, part coming of age story, and all set against a vivid desert landscape.

Author Kim Antieau clearly loves the desert and does an exceptional job of painting in the land and the creatures, with haunting touches of Native mythology Antieau is also passionate about cooking, even including recipes at the back of the book.

But what I found most compelling about this novel was the very mundane mystery of Jeanne -- a detached young woman who doesn't think or care much about the world around her. Shocked to discover that most of what she "knew" about her family is lies, she must re-examine everything she's ever believed. In the process, Antieau raises questions that haunt many of us -- is our world falling apart? Should we care? Should we fight to avert disaster? Or is it smarter to admit inevitable futility and retreat into tiny enclaves of sanity?

This is strong thematic material wrapped in an entertaining and fast-paced plot, but unfortunately the novel derails at the finish with a formulaic and unconvincing ending. Antieau appears to be arguing that we should get involved in the world around us, yet she solves her heroine's problems with a monetary deus ex machina. So where does that leave the rest of us and planet Earth?

Copyright © 2004 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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