I've been excited about Lila Bowen's Wake of Vulture since I first hear it announced. Nettie is an incredible character, and a paranormal weird western sounded like one helluva ride.
It didn't disappoint.
Nettie Lonesome's life is miserable, but at least she knows what to expect until a stranger attacks her. She kills her attacker by stabbing him through the heart but when the man turns to sand, Nettie never sees the world the same again. Filled with creatures, hunters and a whole lot of things between, Nettie has to fulfill her purpose, figure out what and who she is, and stop a monster from killing children.
Nettie has a distinct voice and way of approaching the world. She's skittish of this new world and all these new people around her showing her kindness she's never known. While the story is all about monsters, it's also a look at kindness, bravery in the face of darkness, and how the world is nowhere near as black and white as it seems.
Race, gender, sexuality and the confusion of defining yourself sit firmly at the heart of Wake of Vultures and Nettie's inner struggles with who she, with her dark skin and men's clothing, fits into the world. My favorite part in the book comes when someones tells Nettie she's not a man and she tells them that's not for them to decide. I loved seeing her become more and more confident in what she wants and how she sees the world.
The book is beautifully written and the characters truly shine against the sand and crusted world they live in. There's a wide range of monsters, shifters, humans, and a whole lot of in-betweens. The in-betweens are what give the world its depth and where Nettie continuously finds herself.
If you're a fan of Westerns (or can imagine a Buffy the Vampire Slayer set in the west) then you'll fall in love with the world. The monsters are horrifying, the stakes are high, and Nettie is an incredible guide into the strange new world where water horses haunt the desert, and Cannibal Owls steal children from villages.