Book Review: Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

Wake of Vultures  by Lila Bowen
Series: The Shadow
On Sale Date: October 27, 2015
Adult Fiction \ Western \ Fantasy \ Paranormal
Publisher: Orbit
Source: Bought
352 pages
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
Amazon | Goodreads

A rich, dark fantasy of destiny, death, and the supernatural world hiding beneath the surface.

Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She's a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don't call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand.

And just like that, Nettie can see.

But her newfound sight is a blessing and a curse. Even if she doesn't understand what's under her own skin, she can sense what everyone else is hiding -- at least physically. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead to her true kin... if the monsters along the way don't kill her first.

Wake of Vultures, the first book in Lila Bowen's new series The Shadows, features many of the elements that I love in a story. It has a strong western setting, the feel of the land is touchable and visible, yet it is filled with unexpected monsters straight out of fantasy and folklore. Its heroine is a mix of kickass-ness and coming-of-age while a plot involving a curse ensures plenty of action and adventure. 

What I liked:

"Nettie Lonesome had two things in the world that were worth a sweet goddamn: her old boots and her one-eyed mule, Blue."

The setting is really fantastic in Wake of Vultures. I could easily envision the grit, the wide open prairie, and glaring sun beating down on Nettie's back as she rode her one-eyed mule, Blue, and got the hell out of Gloomy Bluebird, away from her abusive existence. According to the Author's Notes section in the back of the book, Wake of Vultures's terrain is inspired from her love of Lonesome Dove and there's plenty of horse breaking, cow rustling, and cowboy shenanigans to please. From the Double TK Ranch to the Leaping Lizard saloon (a whore-house run by vampires where the ladies give unique 'love bites' to their customers) to the desert hills where Cannibal Owl's lair is hidden - this reimagined Texas pretty much wooed and enthralled me.

Nettie Lonesome is a wonderful and complex heroine. She's this blend of toughness & tenderness, of kick-ass and coming-of-age where she's just trying to find her place where she feels right. She can brand cattle, break in wild horses, shoot and take down monsters all in a day's work. I loved how blunt Nettie is. She's not afraid to call bullshit when she hears or sees it. No nonsense and sensible, I really ended up liking Nettie. The longer I was on her quest with her the more she grew on me. I just wanted to give her a big hug as there're some thoughtful themes interwoven about self-worth, identity, and sexuality.

Creature and monsters straight out of fantasy and folklore somehow find their way into the Western terrain of Wake of Vultures, and the mix is completely intriguing. How do you get sirens, dwarves, and vampires into this setting?? It just works in a fabulous and entertaining way. 

Wake of Vultures features diverse characters including its heroine, Nettie, who  is half-black, half-Comanche. Two secondary characters that are Comanche twins - a brother, and sister, that also play a large role in Wake of Vultures. The Rangers are a mixed lot of cowboys and the monsters and folklore are as mixed as well.

What I wished was different:

Being shown rather than told. I really enjoyed this story, a wild mix of coming-of-age and Western - Fantasy blend, but throughout the story the reader is repeatedly told about Nettie's question of identity. Nettie is such a terrific, young heroine and her actions and words alone, in my opinion, were enough to make clear her story, often in thoughtful and poignant ways, that after awhile (for me) it began to detract from the beauty of the story. Gender, race, and sexual identity all play an important aspect, readers are smart and subtlety works just as well.

What I wanted more of:

More details in the plot as to the reasons behind Nettie's curse and her kin. There's so much more I wanted to know about Nettie's heritage and her gift/curse as well. Hopefully, in the next installment more will be revealed about Nettie!

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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