Format: Hardcover, 359 pages
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal, Western
The sequel to Wake of Vultures, where a rich, secret world is hiding beneath the surface.
Nettie Lonesome made a leap — not knowing what she'd become. But now her destiny as the Shadow is calling.
A powerful alchemist is leaving a trail of dead across the prairie. And Nettie must face the ultimate challenge: side with her friends and the badge on her chest or take off alone on a dangerous mission that is pulling her inexorably toward the fight of her life.
When it comes to monsters and men, the world isn't black and white. What good are two wings and a gun when your enemy can command a conspiracy of ravens?
Conspiracy of Ravens is the second installment in author Lila Bowen née Delilah S. Dawson's The Shadow series. The story picks up right where Wake of Vultures left off. Rhett Hennessy née Nettie Lonesome, had just launched himself off a cliff in order to embrace his two-natured self. Rhett discovers that he can become a giant bird. After losing himself as a fearless bird who is the predator, and not the prey for what appears to be weeks, Rhett meets an Irish shape-shifter named Earl O'Bannon.
Rhett learns a thing or two from the ill-mannered, loud-mouthed Earl who came over to find the long sought after milk and honey and riches that the Republic claims to offer. One of which is how to remember things once he shifts to his other persona and back to his human form. The other is more personal. Earl tells Rhett about a railroad owner named Trevisan who cuts off appendages of monsters who work for him and uses the parts for magic. As the so called Shadow, Rhett can't let that situation stand without taking action. Rhett is fated to rush in with both guns blazing, while others accept their situations.
As a a bit of motivation, Earl also tells of a doctor who can heal. A doctor who might just be able to give Winifred back the use of her foot. Rhett takes Earl to Captain Walker's Durango Rangers. Captain is near and dear to my heart, and his actions towards Rhett, including ensuring he was given the title of Scout, proves that there are good people in this horrible world willing to do good things for those who haven't exactly had a good life. After telling the tale of Trevisan's horrors to the Captain, and a reunion with Sam Hennessy, Coyote Dan, and Winifred, Rhett makes the choice to help Earl with his problem while Captain and the rest of the Rangers head off to take on sandwyrms.
Once Rhett finally makes his way to Trevisan's camp, it becomes abundantly clear that there is really something really horrible about the place. From the segregation of Chinese, Irish, Blacks, and other races from each other. To the fact they sleep in railroad cars locked up. To the fact that all workers are monsters who find themselves at the mercy of Trevisan and his men. Rhett meets Grandpa Z, and Cora after a face to face meeting with Trevisan. Trevisan takes the burden off readers by telling Rhett exactly what he is, and where his people are apparently from. It is now up to Rhett to find a way to kill Trevisan before he, himself, becomes a victim.
As this story is set in an alternative 1800's Texas, the world building has already been set in place with the first installment in the series. Now, Bowen sets up an even more difficult reality for Rhett. Rhett isn't really a man, but has chosen to take the appearance and personality of one. Bowen moves Rhett from one sticky obstacle (the monthly cycle which only women have) to Rhett's feelings for Sam, and Winifred, and later another character named Cora. Rhett's destiny as the Shadow puts a whole levity on his relationship with Dan, Sam, and Winifred.
They know Rhett is more often ready to fly off the handle more often than not. Rhett is an unusual character. He's half Indian and half black, raised by two white people who treated him as a slave. Rhett has chosen to walk the walk of a hero, but still makes some twisted choices that have consequences. Which leaves us with an ending that boggles the mind. I do love Rhett's circle of friends. These are people who you want to know more about, and not just kick to the side because you need more Rhett time.