Nettie Lonesome is an unlikely hero. She’s half Native American, and half African American with no idea of her past or her people. She dresses and acts like a boy to avoid the hellish treatment she sees perpetrated on women, young and old, in the tiny town of Gloomy Bluebird in the Durango territory. While she bristles at the label of slave, that is exactly how Mam and Papp treat her, and she dreams of someday working as a hired hand, breaking and taming horses, on a ranch far away.
The stranger that wandered onto the farm in the middle of the night seemed normal enough. And he seemed to be interested in the only thing men ever are as he backed her into the barn. So, Nettie felt justified when, after every other attempt made to dissuade him failed, swinging the sickle at his head. But when even THAT didn’t stop him, she started grasping at anything else she could get hold of, to use as a weapon. When she poked a small piece of wood at his chest, something unexpected happened--he exploded into a mound of sand. The man was a vampire and by killing him, Nettie could see vampires and all of the other unnatural creatures that live in the desert. She could also sense when they were near, and finds out that she is part of a prophecy. Nettie Lonesome, the girl that no one has ever wanted, is destined to kill the Cannibal Owl, if something else doesn’t kill her first.
The character of Nettie Lonesome has a strong, clear voice that develops as her world grows from the small farm, where she has lived most of her life, to the much wider territory of Durango where dangers and wonders await her. The supporting characters are also memorable and have their own secrets and surprises.
Wake of Vultures is a rich, dark fantasy with a light touch. While the dangers presented are at times frightening, they are balanced by humor and musings about the ways of the world, which can be applied to everyone's world. Not only about fighting the monsters hiding in the shadows, the novel is about conquering the ones that hold us back and limit our potential. It is about what it means to be truly human, by realizing that as we each walk the road of life, each person’s road is uniquely and distinctly their own. It also emphasizes that while we are all on our own journeys, there is a lot we can learn from each other, which can be particularly true regarding people we believe, on the surface, to be nothing like us.
The novel includes characters who are cross-dressers, minorities and of varying genders and sexualities, and all of them strengthen and add to the complexity of the story. This diversity of characters exemplifies the old concept from the original Star Trek series, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, proving that multiple perspectives and outlooks do not make us weaker, but stronger.
The book has elements of serenity and introspection and is also packed with action that unfolds at break-neck speed. The threats are real and the battles are brutal and harrowing. No one comes through this story unscathed. Wake of Vultures shows how engaging and engrossing stories told from different perspectives can be, and how being inclusive can offer greater enjoyment while providing greater understanding. A lack of diversity in novels, motion pictures and television is of great concern. The creation of the character, Nettie Lonesome by author Delilah S. Dawson, writing under the pen name Lila Bowen, provides significant evidence why there is a need for stories about characters we may have never read about.
This is the first book of a planned series, with the next volume, Horde of Crows, due out this fall.