PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIn this unforgiving landscape, which Lin vividly and meticulously describes in prose whose music is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s, even a rainstorm can take on mythical proportions ... The book is filled with gunfights, blood and dust, and gruesome murders with details that are cinematic and precise, down to the number of bullets left. Death in this \'ancient and deathless\' terrain is always too close, where the land is sometimes a resplendent spectacle, more often a callous god ... It can be difficult to keep a narrative moving in a desolate setting and some of Lin’s descriptive sentences can feel overladen ... The men on Ming’s hit list are largely interchangeable, and even his wife, Ada, whom he plans to retrieve, is delivered in dreamy snippets that make their love feel thin and a bit stock. This story line may have been more convincing on the screen, where visuals could have conveyed ardor and distinctiveness, but on the page, with an often stoic character, it’s hard to invest in this aspect of his journey. Also, the supernatural abilities of the magic-show characters sometimes swoop in and remove the obstacles in Ming’s way, which lets some of the tension out of the story, and despite his accumulated blood, sweat and grit, Ming can feel too invincible ... Lin’s prose captures the terrifying, repetitive power of nature.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"These two extraordinary characters navigate the dangers of the frontier, driven at times by literal thirst and haunted by a more intangible want ... Obreht is at her most captivating when she reveals Nora’s innermost thoughts, especially those she hesitates to acknowledge on the edges of her consciousness ... As it should be, the landscape of the West itself is a character, thrillingly rendered ... Here, Obreht’s simple but rich prose captures and luxuriates in the West’s beauty and sudden menace. Remarkable in a novel with such a sprawling cast, Obreht also has a poetic touch for writing intricate and precise character descriptions ... There are a few places in the novel where readers might struggle to pinpoint the present moment of the story. Perhaps this is because in the toggling back and forth between Lurie’s and Nora’s perspectives, there are quite a few characters with complex circumstances to keep track of. Or it could be because a good chunk of Nora’s predicament is revealed slowly, through flashbacks ... In Obreht’s hands, this is an era that overflows with what the dead want, and with wants that lead to death. Her two central characters may not be who we have been conditioned to think of when we conjure the old American West, but they too are America.\