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Wake of Vultures (The Shadow Book 1) by Lila…
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Wake of Vultures (The Shadow Book 1) (original 2015; edition 2015)

by Lila Bowen (Author)

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2322171,167 (3.91)22
Member:Stewartry
Title:Wake of Vultures (The Shadow Book 1)
Authors:Lila Bowen (Author)
Info:Orbit (2015), 374 pages
Collections:Read
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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Wake of Vultures (The Shadow) by Lila Bowen (2015)

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A weird woman in the wildest west adventure, young Nettie Lonesome, is the most disadvantaged of the heroines I've met in western fantasy, but her limitations are also her focus and a significant portion of the story are encounters that give her understanding that the limits are arbitrary and external rather than intrinsic. The plot is largely a quest with increasingly nasty monsters encountered among occasionally not currently hostile monsters as Nettie, disguising herself as a boy, realizes that she is among the latter. Best of all, this well written and well paced books is a promising start to a series! ( )
  quondame | Mar 9, 2018 |
I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I first received this novel, I didn't know what to expect. I'm not a fan of Western based stories and the last one I had read that was fantasy based was Blood Red Road, which was good but very unusual. I went into this story with more than a little apprehension and a lot of bias, I will admit it. However, after reading this novel, my opinion on Western fantasies has been completely changed and I am hooked to this series!

Nettie Lonesome is a half-breed who would much rather be a boy than a girl, who is treated like a slave by people who act as her "adoptive" parents. Life is not kind to her, and Nettie does the best she can in her circumstances. Then, one day, a stranger attacks her, a stranger who cannot be killed easily, not even with a sickle to the eye. In desperation, Nettie stabs him in the heart with a chunk of wood, which results in her attacker bursting into black sand.

And with this one death, Nettie can see like never before. Now, she can sense what others hide underneath the surface of their skin. The world is full of monsters that come in all different forms, and can only be killed in extraordinary ways. Haunted by spirits, Nettie is forced to set out on a quest for revenge that may just lead her to her true family.... if the monsters don't kill her first.

Let me begin by saying that I have never been a fan of novels that are based on the American west. I've never found them interesting, and I never really liked the slang words used and the constant presence of males and their guns and the horse riding. Yes, I know I complain a lot, but I have my preferences! However, I enjoyed the way the author wove this fantasy novel in this setting. It worked far better than I ever expected and I feel like it also allowed for various issues like gender, and race to be explored in great detail.

The main character is absolutely fascinating and multifaceted. The depth of Nettie's character and her internal dialogue and conflict makes her one of the best protagonists I have ever read. This is one of those times when a coloured person has been depicted in an absolutely perfect way, while also ensuring that the colour of the skin isn't the only issue at hand. Nettie struggles in determining where she belongs on so many levels. Not only does she not know who her people are, she can tell from the colour of her skin as well as the way others treat her that she doesn't belong among the white people. However, she also recognizes that she doesn't belong (and doesn't WANT to belong) to the female gender group; she constantly mentions how much happier she would be as a male and how much more comfortable she is in that gender role. I haven't really read any book that has a protagonist who struggles with gender identity, and I quite liked seeing that aspect. I also thought the author did a really good job in exploring Nettie's sexual identity, as well as that of other characters. Often I find that authors try to show their support for the LGBTQ community and incorporate a romance with those elements, but it usually fails in authenticity (or for other reasons). Not here. The author portrayed the relationships and feelings in a very realistic way that flowed with the rest of the story.

Now onto the story itself. In this book, Nettie comes face to face with monsters that we are both familiar with and also completely unaware of. Even those that we know of are not presented in the usual way. This was so refreshing. It was so awesome to be able to read about vampires and werewolves and all sorts of other magical creatures/monsters and see them as being unique, rather than just the same old thing. While most people would peg this down as just one more "quest" tale at first glance, reading it will completely change that opinion. There is so much more going on and this "quest" isn't just simplistic. I could continue to ramble on about this book forever but I won't. Suffice to say that this novel will take your love of fantasy to a whole new level!

Overall, this was a fantastic fantasy novel. I don't usually produce raving reviews, but when I do, you know I'm not exaggerating. There wasn't a single thing that I felt the author could have improved on. I loved the storyline, I loved the characters, I loved that it was more than just about romance or about killing evil things. There was real depth to this story and it pulled me in straight away. I can't wait to read the next book in this series! ( )
  veeshee | Jan 29, 2018 |
Wake of Vultures is the first book in The Shadow series by Lila Bowen. While I found the book in the regular fantasy section at the book store, the story has a definite YA feel to it. This was my first time reading a fantasy western. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book since westerns aren't normally my thing.

All Nettie Lonesome wants out of life is to work as a hand at a ranch and spend her days training horses. Being a mixed race orphan girl and living practically as a slave to her adpotive parents it looks like her dreams will remain only a dream until she is attacked by a stranger. Grabbing the only thing near by to use in self defense Nettie stabs the man with a piece of wood through the heart which causes him to turn into... sand? This one act unlocks the "sight" in Nettie and soon she's seeing monsters and myths everywhere. It's a strange, strange world out there and it's not long before Nettie finds herself cursed by a dying Comanche woman to find and kill the monster that's been stealing children in the region. And the clock is ticking.

Nettie is an interesting character. She's sixteen and there has not been much kindness in her life so far. She has been told so many times that she's worthless and useless due to her mixed blood that she believes it. It makes her prickly, with a rough attitude and a hard character to get to know. I found her alternatively frustrating and charming while at the same time feeling compassion for her. She's also had a very small world view, seeing most matters as black and white. This includes gender roles which is the catalyst for her deciding to identify herself as a man so she can work on a ranch. The real world is definitely a learning experience for her, especially when it comes to relationships between people.

The setting is an alternative 1800s Texas. I like how Bowen used small bits of real history and worked it in to her fantasy world, the Durango Territory. I really enjoyed how she turned the Texas Rangers into a supernatural fighting group, those that kill what must be killed (monsters). Their methods are fairly heavy handed though and it gives them a reputation for wanton destruction, some of it seemingly well earned.

There are some pretty great action scenes with the monsters. The book also touches on some deep subjects though since the book leans towards YA and is fairly short they aren't explored too deeply. These subjects include racism, sexism, gender identification, alternative relationships, the death of children and what really makes a monster.

Fair warning: while the main story thread is wrapped up, the ending is a bit of a cliff hanger that is the hook for the second book. I enjoyed Nettie's story enough that I will likely continue it sometime in the future. ( )
  Narilka | Jan 20, 2018 |
This was really quite good. It had a recommendation by Cherie Priest, and that worried me a bit, since I read one of her books (Maplecroft) and disliked it for being too dark and depressing. But this book was nothing like that. Lots of ugliness happening, of course, but there was no hopelessness. Nettie is a great character, who can be a bit coarse and difficult in the beginning, but she grows and gets to know herself better. Not to wonder she has difficulty accepting friendship at first, considering how little she got for the first years of her life. She is above all tenacious and courageous, risking herself several times to help her friends. The story moves along at a decent pace, and at times, quite a bit faster than that. Not all mysteries are resolved at the end, but it is rounded off enough for satisfaction. And if you're looking for diversity in fantasy, this is definitely one to try: aside from the main character being female, strong and smart and the book passing the Bechdel test, she is also half-comanche, half-black, identifies as male (and there are indications that this is not just to hide among men), and is attracted to both men and women. Aside from that, there are several native Americans and a gay guy. It's true that there are not a lot of women in the book, and that Nettie herself doesn't view women in a positive light, especially at first. This does make sense from her character's point of view, however, and I'm glad that the other woman who gets a decent amount of page time prefers dresses over men's clothes and teaches Nettie to accept more of herself.

The only reason I am giving this 4 stars instead of 5 is that I prefer my books to be more immersive. It was a great read, and I was invested, but I did not have much trouble setting the book aside. I think the pace was a bit too fast, as if we were skimming over the story instead of sinking into it.

Still, I'm already planning when to go into town to buy the next book. Highly recommended. ( )
  zjakkelien | Jan 5, 2018 |
Wow. I'm not entirely sure what to say about this book. I loved it, and was tremendously impressed by it – but, oddly, I made only one note as I read it. Maybe I was just too caught up in the read to think about it.

Lila Bowen takes a corner of space and time that few others have paid attention to, and she makes it her own. It's a ways after the Civil-War in the Southwest US, yet Nettie Lonesome is basically a slave. Black amid whites, a girl with the desire and ability to do the things only men do, utterly unloved and unremarked, when her life is changed by an unexpected, unexpectedly supernatural attack, she walks away from her old life with hardly a thought, and remakes herself. She goes with her instincts and disguises herself – successfully – as a boy: Rhett. In the best F&SF tradition, she begins to seek to create her own family where none has ever existed for her before.

And then things turn upside-down again. Ghosts, creatures, shapeshifters – after a childhood and youth of unrelentingly painful sameness, suddenly she has more excitement to face than she could ever have dreamed. And she falls in with the Rangers – who, it turns out, are primarily tasked with fighting not Indians or Mexicans but supernatural dangers.

This was a fascinating aspect of the story for me. At one point the captain muses about perception. They would follow a trace or a cry for help into a town or settlement, where something would have been having its way with the populace, laying waste and eating its fill. In would come the Rangers, and destroy the whatever-it-was – but "by the time news reaches a town, all that's left of the monsters is sand and ashes." A number of citizens are dead; those who saw what did it don't believe the evidence of their own sense; the things that did do it are dead and gone. And there are the Rangers, figuratively standing over the bodies. "We keep folks safe, and they villainize us for it…"

There are lots more surprises, for the reader and for Nettie herself, all the way up to the end – which (warning!) is an all but literal cliffhanger. I have never been so glad to have immediate access to a sequel, I think, because I was fully invested in the story, the setting, and the characters – especially, of course, Nettie herself. It's a wonderful, remarkable, unique world Lila Bowen has created out of this desert.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review. ( )
  Stewartry | Apr 22, 2017 |
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This one goes out to #WeNeedDiverseBooks, Gangstagrass, and everyone who bucks the binary.
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Nettie Lonesome had two things in the world that were worth a sweet goddamn: her old boots and her one-eyed mule.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316264318, Hardcover)

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 ability 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 05 Aug 2015 18:25:02 -0400)

"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. "--… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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