Cowgirl becomes Buffy in the Wild Weird West, and then discovers it’s okay to be gay or bi-sexual. A 21st century PC fantasy for the modern hip teen. That pretty much sums up Wake Of Vultures.
Nettie Lonesome is half black and half Native American. She was “adopted” at a very young age by a white couple and grew up working their farm pretty much as their slave, since they don’t treat her like family. One night she is attacked by a strange man and when she drives a stake into his chest, he turns to sand. From that point on, Nettie can see monsters, and her world is full of them. She encounters vampires (some of whom are prostitutes) and werewolves, as well as creatures like sirens and harpies.
The rest of a book is Nettie’s journey to kill something call the Cannibal Owl, a creature that is stealing children during each new moon. It is also a journey of Nettie’s self-identity. When she leaves the farm after killing the vampire, dressing and living as a boy makes it easier for her work as a ranch hand and later as a Ranger.
She also learns about race, gender, sexuality. The constant “be who you want to be, don’t be who they tell you to be” theme comes across as heavy-handed and preachy. I could have done with less of that, and more exploration of the world Nettie lives.
In her afterword, the author states, “some of the themes in Wake of Vultures will cause outrage.” I guess that’s because the book is targeted toward the YA market and maybe some parents and school officials will find the book “offensive” due to its theme of tolerance. Maybe, but not likely. In our current media climate, more folks are attacked for NOT being tolerant than otherwise.
All that being said, Wake of Vultures was a quick, enjoyable read, and an interesting take on updating some paranormal tropes. Here’s hoping Bowen will explore and expand that Wild Weird West in further books.