Series: The Shadow #1
Author: Lila Bowen
Pages: 342 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Orbit Books
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Purchase: Amazon•TBD (affiliate link)
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 was weird. Very weird. I was excited by the idea of a Paranormal Western, but the story didn’t work for me. Nettie lives with her adopted parents, but is treated more like a slave. People assume she must be one anyway since she’s half Black and half Native American. But then one day Nettie kills a man and he turns to dust. From then on, she can see all of the monsters that were once hidden. She also learns that she’s The Shadow: the only one who can kill the Cannibal Owl. Nettie just wants to be a horse wrangler, but she can’t until she fulfills her destiny.
Wake of Vultures is a fairly standard “chose one” type of plot. Nettie is just going about her business until she’s told under mysterious circumstances that she has to go on this quest. Sadly, I was bored by her quest. That’s really saying something, because there’s a lot of bizarre things that happen along the way. It just didn’t excite me and I never quite connected with Nettie. I didn’t see any reason for her to care about this Cannibal Owl either. It kidnaps and eats children, and she has to be the one to stop it. Why?
The one thing that I really liked about Wake of Vultures was its discussions on gender, sex, and sexuality. Nettie lives life as a boy. She feels more comfortable that way, since she sees how women are treated. She doesn’t want to be a wife and mother, or “owned” by any man. She also can’t get a job as a horse wrangler as a girl. Then she starts questioning her sexuality. She has a crush on a boy, who she thinks might like her, but he thinks she’s a boy. But she also finds herself drawn to a girl skinwalker. Nettie has no idea what this all means, but she figures that everyone gets to decide for themselves who they are and who they’ll love.
Wake of Vultures was an okay read. I loved the alternate historical Wild West setting and all of the monsters that live in the desert. But the plot just really did not grab me. Nettie and Company travel through dangerous terrain to find the Cannibal Owl before the new moon. Nettie is the only one who can kill it because of reasons. Then more weird things happen. I don’t know.