Early Review: Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (The Shadow #1)


Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen // VBC Review Wake of Vultures (The Shadow #1)
Lila Bowen
Published: Oct. 27, 2015 (Orbit)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Margaret

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

Going in to Wake of Vultures, I was expecting “weird west Buffy” since I’ve heard the author describe it that way on social media several times. It turns out she and I don’t interpret that phrase quite the same way. The term “weird west” makes me think steampunk set in the western U.S., but that’s not what’s happening here. Wake of Vultures is a western with monsters.

The language and the setting evoke the 19th century southwest, though it’s actually a fictional country. There are some obvious nods to pop culture as well—guess what happens to the guy in the red shirt. It also feels a little bit like young adult with its teenaged heroine and ‘be yourself’ message, but I’m pretty sure it’s rated R for language, not to mention the nudity, sexual situations, and graphic violence. So I do get the Buffy part, although I would argue that Nettie isn’t there yet. This is the story of how she got to be ‘Buffy.’

Nettie Lonesome is, she assumes, half black and half Native American, but she was “adopted” at a very young age by a white couple and grew up working their farm. They don’t call her a slave, but they don’t treat her like family either. One night she’s attacked by a strange man who turns to sand when she drives a stick through his heart. From that point on, Nettie can see monsters. And her world is full of them. She encounters vampires and werewolves, as well as mythological creatures like sirens and harpies. I love how those monsters are re-imagined to fit the western setting.

Nettie doesn’t know where she came from so she spends a lot of time trying to figure out who she is supposed to be. She knows that it’s not who she’s been told to be. Nettie started dressing like a boy to make her farm work easier, and because it keeps Pap from looking at her the same way he looks at Mam. When she leaves the farm after killing the vampire, being a boy makes it easier for her work as a ranch hand and later as a Ranger. She learns about race, gender, sexuality and even humanity as she goes. As much as I love the ‘be who you want to be’ message, I felt like it got a bit heavy handed. But the whole point of an origin story is for the hero to figure out who they want to be. When it all clicks for Nettie, it’s a beautiful thing.

But Wake of Vultures was slow getting started for me. Nettie spends more than a quarter of the book working on a ranch. I’m not really a horse person, so I was a lot more interested in the vampires. I do recognize that it was well done, though. Someone more interested in horses and ranching may not think it was slow at all. Once Nettie met up with the Rangers and started fighting monsters, I was really engrossed in the story.

I was surprised by where Nettie wound up at the end of her journey, but I’m excited about what she discovered. I’m also curious about whether she’ll continue down that Buffy path. I really like the Scoobies she’s gathered so far, so I’m glad there’s going to be at least one more book in the series.

Sexual content: references to sex and rape, graphic violence of a sexual nature

One Response to “Early Review: Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (The Shadow #1)”

  1. Oh nice! I love this author’s other books so this is one I want to read! I have heard it’s quite different, but still intrigued by this new world the author has created! Very nice review!

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