Steeped in heritage, “Valley of Shadows” shifts back and forth through time, kicking off in West Texas in 1883, but slowly revealing its protagonist’s past in sections dating back to the mid-1800’s, when the Rio Grande became the new border between the U.S. and Mexico, and the 1860’s, when Mexico battled the French Imperial invasion. The hero of the story is Solitario Cisneros, a former Mexican lawman who lives up to his solitary name. He lost his wife, his family, even his country when the river shifted course. He has resigned himself to a life of solitary regret, communing with spirits and whispering to horses. But a gruesome series of macabre murders and abductions, along with the friendship of an unlikely ally, present him with an unexpected second chance at life, or death.
Through its intimate story, and the perspectives of its lead characters, which include newly minted Mexican-Americans, Anglo settlers, and Mescalero Apaches who had long before called West Texas home, “Valley of Shadows” sheds light on the dark past of injustice, isolation, and suffering along the U.S.-Mexico border. Through luminous prose and soul-searching reflections, Rudy Ruiz transports readers to a distant time and a remote place where the immortal forces of good and evil dance amidst the shadows of magic and mountains.
As readers follow Solitario and his Mexican-Apache friend Onawa into the desert, they join them in facing haunting questions about the human condition that are as relevant today as they were back then: Can we rewrite our own history and shape our own future? What does it mean to belong to a place, or for a place to belong to a people? And, as lonely and defeated as we might feel, are we ever truly alone?
Solitario Cisneros was the sheriff in the town of Olvido, Mexico until the Rio Grande changed course and left Olivido and its inhabitants as part of the United States. Along with losing his job, soon after Solitario lost his wife, Luz. He blames a curse, a malediction placed on his family, but he is still comforted by Luz's ghost that visits every night. Now, a gruesome killing has hit Olvido and Solitario has been asked to investigate. He wants to stay away, but the ghost of a young boy killed that night encourages Solitario to find his siblings. Solitario agrees to take the case, but as he makes headway in finding the lost siblings, more ritualistic killings occur and more children are taken. With the help of Apache seer Onawa, an old bruja as well as the ghosts of those who have passed, Solitario is on the hunt for those behind the murders.
"The night is dark, but it is also full of light."
Valley of Shadows is a masterful blend of western, horror, historical fiction and magical realism. I have previously read the Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez and this book takes place before it, explaining more of the history of the curse, it was nice to fill in some backstory there. The story starts off immediately in the action and pulled me into the mystery of the strange murders. Solitario's character brings in more mystery as his complexities arise. Solitario is cursed and lonely, but he also has a strong sense of justice and a special set of abilities that have been bestowed to him. Through some flashbacks, Solitario's past, love life, curse and the experiences that made him the man he is are revealed. It almost seemed like this could have been another book. As the crimes continue to build, Solitario realizes the impact of racism, fear and greed that has overtaken the town. Solitario must relinquish his loneliness and use his abilities to fight for the people of his town and bring down an evil that wishes to separate them. Valley of Shadows is a complex story from unique viewpoint of a Mexican-American in the 1880's that creates a haunting and compelling mystery.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Rudy Ruiz is a writer of literary fiction, essays and political commentary. His earliest works were published at Harvard, where he studied literature and creative writing, and was awarded a Ford Foundation grant to support his writing endeavors.
“Seven for the Revolution” was Ruiz’s fiction debut. The collection of short stories won four International Latino Book Awards.
Ruiz’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals including BorderSenses, The Ninth Letter, New Texas, and the Notre Dame Review. In 2017, Rudy Ruiz was awarded the Gulf Coast Prize in Fiction. In 2020, Ruiz was a finalist for both the Texas Institute of Letters’ Best Short Story Award as well as the Texas Observer’s annual Short Story Contest.
In 2020, Blackstone Publishing released Ruiz’s novel, “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez.” The novel received critical acclaim and was named one of the “Top 10 Best First Novels of 2020” by the American Library Association’s Booklist. The Southern Review of Books stated: “Ruiz’s prose is buoyant and immersive…Its effusive descriptions are reminiscent of Laura Esquivel.” The novel was longlisted for the Reading the West Award and a Finalist for the Western Writers of America Silver Spur Award for Best Contemporary Novel. It also was awarded two Gold Medals at the International Latino Book Awards, including the Rudolfo Anaya Prize for Best Latino Focused Fiction and Best Audio Book.
Ruiz’s new novel, “Valley of Shadows,” is due for release on Sept. 20, 2022 by Blackstone Publishing.
Follow Rudy Ruiz online:
Website: RudyRuiz.com | Twitter: @Rudy_Ruiz_7