I would like to start this review off by saying that this was written by one of my most favorite authors and despite the following review, I still feel that way.
This book was written well. It has a good general story going on and a great description/feel of the book. 99% of the characters and interesting and complex. My mind is completely, 100% in 1800’s Texas when reading and I love it.
But I strongly dislike the main character. There may be slight spoilers going forward.
I really liked Nettie. She had a tough life, worked hard, and despite being confused and not simply knowing a lot of things, she had a good idea of what she was and what she wasn’t. As Wake of Vultures progressed, Nettie went back and forth about what it meant to her to be a girl. She had been dressing as a boy for some time, but still physically felt a girl (that we could tell, for the most part), and even had a crush on a boy. What she wasn’t was a girly girl; no dresses, no clean and proper, no weakness. She was a strong person and I think it would have been awesome to explore what it would have been like to be a strong-willed bi female who dressed like a boy and liked to break horses in the Wild West.
But instead we had to jump on the trans bandwagon and turn Nettie into Rhett, who is not a very nice guy.
Leading to the decision to become Rhett, Nettie toyed with the idea of maybe females don’t have to be what she thought they did all her life, even maybe making peace a little with the idea of being female. I don’t feel like she actually felt like she was born in the wrong body, and if she did then this really should have been made more clear in Wake of Vultures and Conspiracy of Ravens leading up to the switch. I read it as Nettie not wanting to put in the effort to explore what it means to her to be a girl and push or break boundaries, but as a scapegoat of not wanting to put in that effort and instead just switching teams because it’s easier. It really seemed like the easy way out.
Once Nettie became Rhett, Rhett turned into the jackass kind of guy I think would be running around on a horse out west in the 1800’s. He ends up sleeping with three different people, keeping each one a secret from the others and setting himself up to really hurt people who care about him, and this really bothered me. It’s like he turned into all the men who treated him like shit is whole life. He started thinking with his imaginary penis instead of staying focused on his quest to save people’s lives and stop all the bad guys.
I also feel that the fact of Rhett being “The Shadow” should have been discussed more leading up to the end of this book, because it actually plays a decent part in this story. I re-listened to Wake of Vultures before reading Conspiracy of Ravens and I don’t recall it being mentioned much there either. It seemed to be a suddenly important part of the story.
I gave this book two stars because I still feel like it is a good story and has all-but-one great characters. If you’re looking to read a book specifically with a trans element, I suppose this would be as good as any other and it certainly is unique. I am sad to say that I probably won’t be reading any more books in this series, but I strongly recommend any other books by Delilah S. Dawson (Lila Bowen is her pen name), especially the Blud series.