One day, while her adoptive parents are resting a stranger comes to Nettie’s farm. He attacks her and she is forced to stab him through the eye with a sickle. To her horror, he does not die, he simply plucks the sickle out of his eye and keeps coming at her, his teeth long and sharp. That is when she realizes that he is not a normal man and that she is not just a normal Indian girl taken in by white settlers. Nettie fights back against the monster and stabs him in the heart with a piece of wood. The creature turns to black sand. He was a vampire and Nettie, well Nettie is something else.
“…Religion and legend aren’t always the same thing. The Comanche follow no gods. But there are legends, like Pia Mupitsi. Among our kind-monsters, as my brother calls us-it’s said that a shadow will rise to fight evil. But ‘Shadow’ is said as a name, as an unstoppable force. The Shadow moves among us but cannot be found, cannot be sensed. It can see us, find us, track us. And destroy us. The Shadow is a hunter. A weapon. A new kind of monster.’
She looked at Nettie with slender eyebrows raised, a heavy significance falling between them.
‘And you’re saying you think that’s me?’ Nettie rocked back, laughing and surprising Ragdoll into a snort and twitch. ‘Coyote girl, I ain’t nothin’. A vampire almost killed me, then a lizard feller nearly killed me, and then your brother barely stopped a harpy from killing me. Hell, even a chunk of mesquite nearly killed me. I ain’t a hunter. I’m barely a wrangler. I ain’t a new kind of monster.’ She spit at the girl’s feet and shook her head. ‘I ain’t your Shadow.’
‘Listen to yourself. Almost. Nearly. Barely. You’re still alive. When you should be dead…”
Nettie has a gift, she can see monsters. Even when they are disguised as humans, she knows who they are. That helps her be the perfect hunter. But it also makes her the hunted. There is a new monster out there. A legend as old and dark as they come. He is known as the Cannibal Owl and he lays waste to whole villages and settlements. He comes for the children, but mostly, he wants the one child who escaped him so long ago. Now Nettie, the monster hunter, is being hunted.
This is truly a good story and I love that it strays from the glut of YA paranormal novels by keeping the sappy romance out of it and making its hero not the cover model caricature that fills up so many YA books today. Instead Nettie is a young girl who has no place her world. She soon finds out that it isn’t just being a orphan Indian child in a white world that keeps her apart. But her gift and the probability that she may be far more than human. The spirits and monsters are not your regular characters either. There are vampires and werewolves but also a strong helping of native american lore and legend that is far more interesting.
The weakness to this book is its setting. Not that it is the old west so much but that the interaction between Nettie and the settlers and the rangers is something out of stock 1960s tv show. It is so lacking in originality that it actually holds the characters back. There is the crusty old cow hold, the judgmental townspeople, the young wrangler who romanticizes the west and Nellie herself, who doesn’t shake the caricature of the young ugly western girl until the end when she finds out how powerful she is. It actually distracts from what is really a very good story.
Overall the book is good and dares to be the one thing that is not done in YA novels as of late.
It dares to be different, and in doing so, borders on being original.
A good read that has me interested in the next book in the series.