Wake of Vultures - Lila Bowen

Back in the summer, before my library upgraded their computer system to make it impossible to do this any more, I'd requested a few books that they were planning on buying but which hadn't been published yet - Wake of Vultures was one of those books, so it feels like I've been looking forward to reading this for a while!

 

The basic premise of Wake of Vultures is that it's the story of Nettie, who has been brought up by people she calls her parents even though they clearly aren't and even though they also treat her no better than if she was a slave. This book is YA, so Nettie herself is a teenager, which might put some people off but then they would be missing out on the rest of what makes Wake of Vultures such an interesting and enjoyable read.

 

There is, apparently, a category of genre called 'Weird West' and this book would fit quite well into there: this is not quite our Wild West, though the level of technology is about the same, as Nettie is growing up in a territory called Durango and there doesn't seem to have been a Civil War. What there is, however, as Nettie discovers shortly after the start of this book, are monsters of various kinds - once she has managed to kill one, she is able to see the others and feel their presence nearby.

 

Nettie escapes from her 'family' by trading on her ability with horses, cutting off her hair and getting a job on a neighbouring ranch but fate has a bigger role in store for her. It seems that she has been tipped as the person who will be able to kill the Cannibal Owl, a monster which has been preying on the children of the area, even though Nettie just wants to ride horses, be a ranchhand and be left in peace. After a terrible accident, however, Nettie accepts that she ought to try and get this possible destiny of hers sorted out (if only so folks will leave her alone about it) and joins up with the Rangers, whose job it is to kill monsters. Alongside this, Nettie is sure she is actually Rhett, feeling he has been born in the wrong body and that now at least he's allowed to live as the person he has always been.

 

Since this is a YA book, there's also what might in the hands of a more cliche-bound writer have turned into an uncomfortable (and to my mind unnecessary) love triangle, but instead Rhett is able to get on and do what he needs to do, with support from the various other (mostly male) characters at appropriate times. The overall theme of Wake of Vultures is about finding who you are and not letting other people dictate that, so it's good to see when a writer commits to a theme and takes it through to its logical conclusion, as is the case here, rather than dumping it on the sidelines when it interferes with their romantic plans for the characters.

 

Anyway, I enjoyed this book very much, though it's possibly not for the more squeamish among us (various characters get stabbed, shot, eaten by monsters and there is also my personal favourite, eye trauma) - the sequel is apparently going to be called A Conspiracy of Ravens and will be out some time in 2016.