It’s 1872 and a reckless band of outlaws has robbed a stagecoach, killed two men and kidnapped an innocent young woman. When word of the tragedy gets back to town the local lawmen, Yancy and Cooper Landon, find themselves (along with two other tag-along’s) in pursuit. In the story that follows Cotton brings the reader deep inside a story of lawmen and outlaws, successfully capturing an authentic feeling of the old west. While Entwined Paths is book #2 of the Landon Family Saga it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. It does reference book #1 but it does not rely upon it. Having missed reading Confessions of a Gunfighter should not prohibit any reader from picking up Entwined Paths although I highly recommend them both to any western novel fan.
Cotton absolutely shines when it comes to developing characters and writing dialogue. These are, by far, the greatest strengths of Entwined Paths. The cast of characters in Entwined Paths consists of some very obvious good guys such as lawmen Yancy and Cooper Landon; there are very obvious bad guys such as Utah “Stew” Baine and Cliff Curtis; then there are guys like Brian Clark and Lee Mattingly that seem to walk a fine line between good or bad depending upon the situation. Cotton deftly develops each character to near perfection and builds a strong emotional connection between character and reader. The minor characters such as Rusty, Clay, Clyde, Ned, Tussle, etc. are all well-written and it is a pleasure to read about their adventures. An admirable quality in Cotton’s writing of Entwined Paths is the depiction of women. It is cliché western writing to write women as meek and burdened by the hard living of the wild west, as a “saloon girl” or working in a whorehouse. Cotton writes both Jessica and Josie as proud and strong women who are able to bravely face the trials that come their way. The dialogue, also, was superb. During every conversation it feels less like reading a book and more as though the reader is eavesdropping on a conversation. The dialect, vocabulary and diction also felt very authentic which helped to develop realism. A common flaw in western fiction is to fall into writing clichéd phrases but Cotton avoids that trap. The characters in Entwined Paths did use words such as “reckon” but it felt genuine instead forced.
The only thing lacking in Entwined Paths was the setting. It is the one area in which Cotton’s writing fell short. The pace, the plot, the characters and the dialogue were all incredible. Entwined Paths prove Cotton’s skill and talent as he wove together a very intricate story that brought characters together, then apart, then together again. Cotton wrote with such meticulous care when developing all aspects of Entwined Paths yet the setting seems to have been overlooked. The physical descriptions of the land, the towns and the camps were all lacking any genuine detail. During the ambush on the mesa the intensity of the scene was there as far as character conflict and emotional investment but it was a challenge to actually picture it. It was the one disappointment with the novel although the other aspects of the novel were so strong it’s easy to overlook.
Entwined Paths is a complex and well-written western fiction. It gives a reader everything they could ever want from a Wild West novel –lawmen, dirty outlaws, stagecoach robberies, kidnappings and shoot-outs. As with Confessions of a Gunfighter, the violence in the novel is limited to gunshots and a few punches. It is not heavily descript with graphic depictions of blood or gore which makes this an acceptable read for teens. Also notable, Entwined Paths is only one chapter of the Landon family saga so do not expect this story to end when you turn the final page. The adventures of this family go well beyond these entwined paths.
Review by Ashley LaMarClosed the Cover