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A Love Letter to the Paranormal Western: The Shadow by Lila Bowen

Thursday, October 11th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Wake-of-Vultures-small Conspiracy-of-Ravens-small Malice-of-Crows-small Treason of Hawks-small

If you’re a Weird Western fan like me, you know some years are a lot leaner than others. Like pioneers on the prairie, you learn to survive by keeping your eyes sharp for unexpected bounty.

So I have no idea how Lila Bowen’s The Shadow series managed to evade me this long. I stumbled on a remaindered copy of the second book over at Bookoutlet, and quickly tracked down the other two volumes. And I just learned today that the fourth and final book, Treason of Hawks, arrives on Tuesday — perfect timing.

“Lila Bowen” is a pseudonym for Delilah S. Dawson, the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Phasma and Servants of the Storm. Wake of Vultures, the opening novel in The Shadow, won the RT Fantasy of the Year Award, and in a starred review Publishers Weekly said, “The unforgiving western landscape is home to supernatural beasties as diverse as the human inhabitants… the narrative is a love letter to the paranormal western genre.”

In a featured review last year at Tor.com, Alex Brown offered a tantalizing summary of the story so far. Here’s his take.

[Click the images for Western-sized versions.]

As Wake of Vultures opens, Nettie Lonesome, a half-Black, half-Indigenous slave girl, escapes her abusive white foster parents and runs smack dab into her destiny. She joins up with the Rangers — a sort of wild west police force that kills monsters — and there Nettie sheds his old identity and becomes the man he always knew he was. As Rhett takes on the baby-eating Cannibal Owl, he grows into his other new role, that of the Shadow, a mantle given to the Chosen One who protects the helpless.

By A Conspiracy of Ravens, Rhett and company — including a coyote ‘shifter named Dan, his sister Winifred who is cursed to die nine times, and the handsome Ranger Sam Hennessy — are joined by a petulant Irish immigrant, Earl, who turns into a donkey. With the help of a shapeshifting Chinese dragon called Cora, Rhett goes after a killer necromancer, Trevisian, who is stealing magic from monsters forced to labor on his railroad line. In the third novel of the series, Malice of Crows, Rhett, Sam, Dan, Winifred, Earl, and Cora chase Trevisian, who happens to be possessing Cora’s little sister, across the prairie to end his wicked ways once and for all…

The series is chockablock with gruff dwarves, giant scorpions, man-eating Gila monsters, body-swapping magicians, unicorns, Gorgons, a whole passel of different kinds of animal shapeshifters, and so much more… YA Weird West at its best. It’s a knockdown, drag out brawl of a story that gets better with each installment.

All three existing books are still in print from Orbit. Here’s the publishing deets.

Wake of Vultures (374 pages, $25 hardcover/$15.99 trade/$9.99 digital, October 27, 2015)
A Conspiracy of Ravens (400 pages, $25 hardcover/$15.99 trade/$9.99 digital, October 11, 2016)
Malice of Crows (384 pages, $25 hardcover/$15.99 trade/$9.99 digital, October 31, 2017)
Treason of Hawks (384 pages, $26 hardcover/$13.99 digital, October 18, 2018)

See all our recent coverage of Weird Westerns here.

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