Wake Of Vultures: The Shadow book 1 by Lila Bowen (book review)

November 23, 2017 | By | Reply More

‘Wake Of Vultures’ is the first novel in ‘The Shadow’ series by Lila Bowen. It is a fantasy western set in 1800s Texas. The novel follows Nettie Lonesome, a mixed race black/Native American orphan. Nettie lives on a failing farm with Pap and Mam, her adoptive parents who use her as a slave without calling her one. She has lived a hard life of hunger, abuse and scorn. Her only pleasure is going to the nearby cattle ranch where a kind cowpoke (a ranch hand) called Monty teacher her to break horses.

Nettie’s life abruptly changes when a stranger attacks her and she first sees the truth of monsters in the world. Though she wounds him grievously, it is only when she stabs him in the heart that he turns to sand. Nettie takes the money he had with him and goes to the ranch where Monty offers her a job as long as she pretends to be a man. While she settles in, she starts to see vampires and chupacabras, creatures that had once looked entirely human to her until now.

When a dying Native American woman arrives at the ranch, she tasks Nettie with finding and killing the Cannibal Owl. This is a creature that takes children from right under their family’s noses. She claims to have known Nettie’s tribe and, that if she were to hunt it, she might find out who she was and where she came from. Nettie tries to ignore her task at first but after she has a run in with a chupacabra, she has to leave the ranch and make her own way. She encounters various other creatures along the way and befriends Dan and Winifred, twin coyote shapeshifters, who help guide her to find the Cannibal Owl’s lair.

Knowing that she cannot defeat the Owl alone, Dan takes her to join the Durango rangers, a group of mainly human men who know of the other creatures in the world and take to protecting humans from them. Nettie does her best to fit in with them, while hiding her identity. On her journey, she meets various other creatures both good and bad who have all lost children to the Cannibal Owl.

Nettie is a refreshing character and I have never come across another like her. She is tough, resilient and caring even after a lifetime of racial and physical abuse. She struggles with body dysphoria (an unease with life) and identifies as a man while feeling attraction to both sexes. Bowen has managed to capture her confusion and struggles, without making it the thing that defines her. I always love when authors put in a map and the one in this book has indicators to various new storylines in future books.

I don’t really have much to complain about with this book as, anything, I would have brought up was addressed by the author in her note at the end of the novel. ‘The Wake Of Vultures’ was a fast-moving, enjoyable read. I’m not normally keen on westerns or the ideals of the Wild West but Bowen has changed that. With Nettie as the severely disadvantaged protagonist in a dangerous and cruel country, I’m eager to see what happens next. The ending is almost a literal cliff-hanger, so I suggest you get the second book as soon as you’ve realised you like the first.

Supreethi Salvam

November 2017

(pub: Orbit/LittleBrown. 335 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-356-50656-2)

check out websites: www.orbitbooks.net and www.whimsydark.com

Category: Books, Fantasy

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