Accept Yourself: A Brief Review of Wake of Vultures

Book cover art
This past weekend I read Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen. After I finished, I was flipping through the acknowledgements and other postface materials and was surprised to see that it was the first book in The Shadow series. Honestly, it was a half-decent stand-alone story, but I wouldn't subject myself to any sequels.

Rating: 2/5 Not my cup of tea

Accept Yourself

The main theme is "accept yourself" - not something I think is particularly useful. If you are discontent with who you are, it would be more beneficial to ask yourself why and what you could do to change than to deny that there is anything wrong beyond the feelings themselves.

Reject Others

I also disliked how simplistic Nettie's view of the world is. Anyone who is nice to her is good, and anyone who is mean is evil. Bowen supports this view throughout the story.

Nettie's foster parents, for example. Clearly not kind people: racist and morally deficient. They treated her like a slave and raised her to believe herself worthless. They are lazy drunks who unfairly blame Nettie for their problems.

Evil vs Good is a common motif in fantasy, but characterizing people as either all evil or all good is a trope of the fairy tale and should be left to children's stories.

Mam and Pap are not misunderstood characters. I am not arguing that they do not deserve Nettie's anger and that there ought to be consequences for their behavior. However, at some point a dirt-poor couple took in a helpless baby and raised her to call them Mam and Pap. I saw in their behavior insecurity, disappointment, and frustration. More condemnation of themselves than of Nettie. 

They should not have blamed a young girl for their own failings, but the theme of "accepting yourself" could be just as uselessly applied to them as to Nettie.

"Accepting" yourself does not encourage self-reflection and denies the need for self-improvement.

Furthermore, Nettie's understanding of her foster parents and other disagreeable characters is two-dimensional, and her use of it to justify her behavior is juvenile. All this to say I found both the theme and her character off-putting.


I didn't think Wake of Vultures is anything to write home about. The word-choice is stilted - full of similes and odd phrases. The characters were well developed if alienating. The plot was interesting when the Bowen could move it beyond the awkward "discovering my sexuality" story line.

My main problem with the story was the theme of "accept yourself" coupled with the blanket condemnation of others who don't accept you. I find that to be a closed-minded worldview. 


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