Wake Of Vultures by Lila Bowen book review

Magic meets the frontier in Lila Bowen’s Wake Of Vultures

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Every young adult novel is about the search for identity. That’s kind of the point of being a teenager,
after all. But for Nettie Lonesome, figuring herself out is more difficult than for most.

A mixed-race child ‘adopted’ by a ranch owner who uses her as a slave, Nettie has never fitted in anywhere. Following a chance encounter with a mysterious (and evil) stranger who explodes into sand when she accidentally stakes him in the heart, she makes her bid for freedom by joining a band of cattle wranglers.

But there’s a whole world of monsters out there, and Nettie – a girl with no tribe, no family, and no real desire to even be a girl – will need to face the scariest of them all if she wants to find her place in the world.

Set in an alternate version of 1800s Texas, Wake Of Vultures is a gloriously imagined novel, rich with mythology and magic.

Nettie (or Nat, or Rhett, as she’s variously known) is a fantastic character, brave and clever and utterly intolerant of anyone who might underestimate her for her sex or the colour of her skin. Seeing her find strength in the things she is as well as the things she’s not is both exciting and genuinely affecting (if the ending doesn’t make you cry, nothing will).

The language of the book takes a bit of getting used to; it’s so full of the slang of the frontier that you feel you should be chewing tobacco or at least a stalk of hay while reading it.

Give it a chapter, though, and the seductive rhythm of it will draw you in, tempting you to read just a few more pages before stopping… then a few more, and a few more.

As unique as its heroine, and as full of heart, this is a bold, determined book – one that knows exactly what it wants to be.