Wake of Vultures (The Shadow #1)
by Lila Bowen
Review by Katie Carmien
Orbit Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316264310
Date: 27 October 2015 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Nettie Lonesome has never had a home. Her adoptive parents treat her like a slave; everyone else ostracizes her because of her race. But when she stakes a mysterious stranger who attacks her through the heart and he turns to black dust, everything changes. Soon Nettie is plunged into the supernatural underworld of the American West that never was, and a dead woman charges her with hunting down and killing the monstrous Cannibal Owl before it strikes again. But the Owl hunts every new moon, and it's coming fast. Can Nettie become the hunter she needs to be in time?
Lila Bowen's Wake of Vultures is a wild ride from start to finish. Nettie is a deeply engaging main character--prickly, vulnerable, stubborn, and quick on the draw. Her narration pulls the reader deep into the world of Durango. Secondary characters Winifred and Dan tend to steal the show whenever they appear, but that's no bad thing. Nettie's growing relationship with both of them is a pleasure to read, as are, her interactions with every other character, whether friendly or antagonistic.
That brings us to the Cannibal Owl, or Pia Mupitsi. While it remains in the background for over half the book, the Owl is nevertheless a terrifying adversary. Bowen lays the groundwork early, with little hints, and when the Owl finally arrives on-screen it does not disappoint. It has a simple motive, but it's a villain worthy of Nettie, and Bowen will be hard-pressed to top the Owl in the sequel.
The main complaint I have is one of pacing. It felt as though Nettie was rushed through some parts, such as the ranch she works at in the beginning, and then moved slowly through others. Also, some of Nettie's similes sometimes seemed too overtly Western, as if Bowen didn't want us to forget where this book is set. That's a shame, because there's really no chance of that--the setting is well-drawn and detailed, and feels very realistic. However, other readers may not find these to be problems, and they didn't change my enjoyment of the book at all.
If you're looking for a unique tale of the weird, weird West, Wake of Vultures is the book for you.