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.
Wake of Vultures, by Delilah S. Dawson writing as Lila Bowen and the first book in The Shadow series is the sort of coming-of-age Western story that was once solely reserved for boys. It calls to mind such recent comic titles as Pretty Deadly and East of West, and with a female protagonist being confronted by an array of supernatural and very human monsters, it belongs to what may prove to be a further revival of the genre.
There may be many protagonists who believe themselves to be the most unlikely of heroines, but Nettie Lonesome has the deck stacked high against her. She stands out in a world that does not look kindly on women, mixed-race people, or anyone who does not let themselves be entirely broken by a harsh world and cruel people. Nettie, who is attracted to both women and men, and self-identifies as a man, preferring to dress as such, is a slave in all but name when she is attacked one day by a stranger. In defending herself, Nettie stabs the stranger through the heart with a piece of wood, only to be shocked when he turns into black sand.
This event, besides propelling Nettie into a greater wariness of people also makes her aware that there are more monsters in the world, and some of them have very sharp teeth. The difference is that now Nettie has the ability to see them for what they truly are. Such knowledge does not make life any easier, and now Nettie is aware of exactly what comes out of the desert at night to attack people, steal children, and drink blood. Although she is in no hurry to try her hand at heroics, Nettie’s soon encounters vampires, chupacabras, and harpies, and her journey takes her into the sand and toward an evil which she both fears and knows must be stopped.
As protagonists go, Nettie is both a survivor, and someone who, in spite of all the hardship she’s endured, a good person, who ultimately chooses to listen to her gentler instincts instead of being selfish and steering clear of danger. It is this kindness, bolstered by admirable ferocity and the determination that a person shouldn’t let other people dictate who they are that makes her so compelling, and the story one which demands a sequel.
(Received a copy from the publisher)