Featured Review | Wake of Vultures – Lila Bowen

About the Book

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.

352 pages (hardcover)
Published on October 27, 2015
Published by Orbit
Author’s webpage
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This book was sent for me to review by the author.

I’ve been fortunate to read some truly amazing books recently. It seems like just about every one of them that has arrived at my house has been something I’ve ended up truly enjoying on a surprising level. That doesn’t happen often, so I savor it when it does.

Wake of Vultures was sent to me by the author, and I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve been on this kick recently where I haven’t read anything about a book; I just dive in. Therefore, when I opened it, I had no idea it was a western, or steeped in mythology, with a protagonist that I fell in love with instantly. All I knew was that it was written by an author I really admire, and had a blurb from another author I really admire on the cover.

Wake of Vultures takes place in a dry, barren west that springs to life. It’s as rough as the people who populate it. Violence is normal, and after cutting life out of the barren soil, the people are hard as the earth they live on. It creates a sort of interesting relationship between a landscape that really doesn’t have much to brag about in the way of beautiful things, and the people who make the uninteresting landscape completely interesting. And, to be honest with you dear readers, I get it. I live in the west. There are lots of places out here that are dry, cracked, full of cattle and not much else. It’s the people that make some of these landscapes interesting.

Nettie, or Nat, is one of the best protagonists I’ve ever read about. She is unapologetically, completely herself. She wants what she wants, and there’s no real reason for her to mentally mull over her desires or their consequences. She just goes for it. She is more comfortable among the men, and rather than making a huge issue of it, she just wears pants, works on the ranch and lives her life. It’s really refreshing, in a way, to read about a character who is just wholly who she is in every respect. I loved, loved, loved how Bowen crafted Nettie/Nat, who ended up being one of the most vibrant, colorful, admirable and real things about the world she built.

Nat is unique in a lot of ways. She’s a half-breed in a world that doesn’t welcome that sort of thing, and is very misunderstood. She doesn’t really fit in with any one gender. After she starts seeing all these supernatural things around her, she sort of has one foot in the human’s world, and one foot in the supernatural world. She’s balanced on a lot of lines, and she’s perfect for this world that Bowen has created, a world that is shockingly real, but almost dreamlike and surreal at the same time. The unique tapestry that makes up Nettie is the perfect compliment to her reality. Somehow she makes everything she encounters seem that much more real and genuine.

The plot is just as delightful as everything else I’ve mentioned so far. It’s raw, rather dark and brittle. Gory, but also beautiful. Bowen has this perfect knack for taking a dark book, pushing it to its limit, and then balancing that darkness with some beautiful, hopeful, tones. A grisly death at the start, the unraveling of a world that is crafted out of a myriad of different myths, and then the cog that ends up driving Nat throughout the book is nothing short of genius. Throughout all of this, there is a lot of growth and development. Nat is a young person, and this book forces her to grow quite a bit. Her personal growth next to such an addicting, surprising, fast-paced plot works together to create a book that is absolutely impossible to put down.

Wake of Vultures features a lot of different myths from a lot of different cultures, and none of them really worked out the way I expected them to work. I enjoy my myths, but I enjoy them more when the sexy Vlad the Impaler vampire isn’t walking around with his shirt hanging off and women fawning over him (for example). However, the myths that Bowen works with are, as I said, unique and absolutely her own. They compliment the world well, and keep things interesting (as if interesting was ever a problem with this book…). They added another level of mystery and complexity to the world and the situations that Nat finds herself in. Much like ML Brennans series, I truly enjoyed how Bowen took a lot of things that could have easily been tropey, and twisted them to be unique and one-of-a-kind to the book she’s written.

As for the tone, If you’re a fan of Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig you’ll want to do yourself a favor and check out Wake of Vultures. While the worlds and time periods are vastly different, the same dark, wry tone is found in each novel.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Wake of Vultures was just about everything I wanted it to be plus some. It was one of my favorite, most delightful reads so far this year. Everything about it was amazing, from Nettie who was one of the most individual, perfectly crafted protagonists, to the plot that never quit, and the mythology that wrapped itself around this textured world that Bowen has created. This book was a delight, and absolutely recommended.


5/5 stars

3 Responses

  • Loved this book! And agree, Nettie is an amazing character, can’t wait for the next one!

  • Oooh, this one sounds like a gem! I’ve put it on my goodreads “Want to read list”. I love anything with myth/folklore real or invented and this one sounds like its right up that alley.

  • Derek

    This sounds fantastic! Thanks for bringing it to my attention 🙂

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