Conspiracy of Ravens (The Shadow Book 2).
4.5 stars out of 5.
Nettie Lonesome jumped off a cliff, not knowing what she’d become. She’s still not sure, but the destiny of the Shadow is calling her to help someone she’d just as soon watch die. Her new sidekick, an annoying shifter named Earl, is hellbent on finding the Rangers. He’s just escaped a railroad camp where monsters are held captive, their very bones used to fuel the tracks scarring Nettie’s wild, beloved Durango. And he wants revenge. Nettie, now facing the truth of her own identity and going by Rhett, must decide whether to side with her friends and the badge on her chest or take off alone on the dangerous mission pulling her inexplicably 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?
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Conspiracy of Ravens starts directly after the events at the end of Wake of Vultures. Continuing Nettie/Rhett’s story. And, you can find my review for the first book !!HERE!!
As I mentioned in my review of the previous book, along with the story being told it was also about Nettie/Rhett’s journey and the ending of the book itself fitted perfectly with that. With Nettie now knowing who she really was when she jumped off the cliff. She realised that she can be who she wants to be and that it’s her choice. Her choice is to be Rhett Hennessy, a he who is both a Texas Ranger and a Monster.
Rhett is a shifter and is able to transform, like Dan and Winifred both change into coyotes, Rhett transforms into a large bird, larger than a Vulture and when we finally learn the name of the bird later on it gives us a glimpse into where one of his parents was from as it’s a rare creature to change into.
At the start of the book, after the conclusion of Wake of Vultures, Rhett has lost himself in his transformed bird state, leaving behind the pain and suffering of his human life for the simple life of a bird, eating carrion and flying around. In essence he has lost his humanity until he finds another shifter, a donkey who is an annoying, talkative and irritating young Irish man by name of Earl O’Bannon whose story about Bernard Trevisan and his rail road intrigues the part of Rhett that is The Shadow.
Thinking Earl’s story worth investigating Rhett agrees to take Earl to the Durango Rangers. On the trip to the Rangers outpost Earl helps Rhett with learning about his transformation and how to remember things he’s seen in bird form when he reverts back to being a man. We pass back the same way as the journey The Durango Rangers first took in Wake of Vultures, seeing and stopping at the same places along the way. I liked this in the book as it was nice to revisit the places from the first book even if only for a short time. It also made the journey back more personal for Rhett as he was repeating the journey he took to find himself only in reverse and, until he arrived back at the Ranger outpost you weren’t sure what sort of welcome he would get.
After Rhett finally returns to the Ranger outpost with Earl in tow, we get to see and catch-up with more characters from the first book, The Captain, Sam and the Coyote siblings Dan and Winifred. We learn that the Rangers have a commission to go and deal with Sand Wyrms which conveniently happens to be in the opposite direction to where Earl’s story will take them. With The Captain unable to refuse the already accepted commission, Rhett has to choose, stay with the Rangers or follow his destiny as The Shadow and due to that destiny, Rhett has to go where the pull takes him and it’s telling him that he needs to stop the Evil that Earl has spoken of.
Even though it was only a brief glimpse, it was great seeing the grizzled old Ranger Captain again and that Bowen found a way to both keep and incorporate the Las Moras Ranger outpost into the story – The Captain was one of my favourite secondary characters in Wake of Vultures. (If you read this Lila, you mentioned Sand Wyrms, I can’t be the only reader who wants to actually see them in a future book!)
Rhett isn’t left on his own though and he is still a Durango Ranger, Sam, Dan and Winifred all accompany him along with Earl and the best way to describe the group is as a ragtag posse.
Without writing too much and spoiling the story further. From here the story really picks up, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t slow to begin with but after leaving the Ranger outpost the group start making their way to the rail road that Trevisan is building and that actual story arc really picks up. On the way to the railroad camp we travel through a couple of very different places enlarging the world and meeting some rather eclectic characters to. With one place and character in particular showing the discrimination that Injuns and half-breeds suffered at the hands of the white man.
Being a moving encampment, Rhett can’t just go blindly into the fray, find out what is going on and how he as The Shadow can put a stop to it. We have the planning stages to include this time around as the group themselves have to formulate a plan to infiltrate Trevisan’s railroad and the banter, interplay and relationships between the group is one of the places where the book really shines and comes to life with Bowen creating a top quality group dynamic between them all with complex relationships and the occasional secret hidden just beneath the surface. It’s not just the planning on how to get into the camp either, throughout the book the group dynamic is a highlight.
The railroad camp itself is a horrible place, segregation and discrimination run rife in it with the more diverse groups being treated as animals and worthless, just labour to build and the whites being allowed freedom and money to spend. Colour and ethnic division again bringing diversity to the book, showing you how different colours are treated this time including the Irish and Chinese to. Which adds abit of reality into the fantasy novel as it really happened with both groups, where like immigrants they went in search of a better life and instead found cruelty and oppression.
When you first come across him, Bernard Trevisan himself isn’t what you expect from the main villain, with the clothes he wears he comes across as a dandy but while he wears brightly coloured suits his intentions themselves are pure dark and evil and he is a good choice to show that evil can wear any guise.
The various groups in the camp are all well realised, if slightly stereotypical – the Irish for one and as I mentioned the camp itself is a horrid place with a dark sense of doom hanging over it. And Rhett’s time spent there shows you how hard it is.
When Rhett finally manages to hatch a plan to stop Trevisan with the help of Cora, a Chinese doctor your glad that he is finally going to stop the terribleness that is the railroad and what Trevisan is creating and doing to the work force.
The story then builds to the inevitable conclusion, which ends the book nicely while leaving things open for the third book in the series.
The characters are all really good and ably support Rhett in the book. With the new characters adding a nice touch to, Earl is annoying and talkative and manages to near constantly antagonise Rhett which makes for you the reader having a chuckle at the pair of them and the addition of Cora later on is a nice touch to bringing a Chinese feel to the group and a different perspective and she is an interesting character that we will hopefully see more of in future books. And, Rhett’s relationships within the group are very interesting, especially his feelings towards certain group members and the trysts that take place.
Rhett himself having come to terms with who he is in the previous book is free to develop as the character and person that he chooses to be. I really like Rhett as a main character but did feel that at times he sometimes overstepped the mark in the book with some of his actions and anger but it’s a minor point and he is still an engaging character for the series to revolve around.
The world building is also top quality, we get to see more locations this time and hear little snippets about other areas of the world to, giving you a complex and richly detailed setting, hopefully with other areas to be explored in the future. And, the addition of alchemy is also another good touch adding some science into the supernatural and furthering the depths of the world to go alongside the monsters.
The writing is fast paced and Bowen pulls you into the story and unlike the first book where I lamented the fact that it could have been 50 pages or so longer this time around the book feels the perfect length.
Again, just like with the first book, Wake of Vultures, I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent reading Conspiracy of Ravens and would highly recommend that you pick the series up. The series has everything that you could want in a book of this genre, an awesome blend of fantasy and western, great characters and the diverse aspect adds extra to it rather than detracting from the series with the lead character Rhett being a very complex and interesting character.
A top quality sequel that is recommended and deserves to be read.
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As the book, well the series so far is classed as diverse due to Nettie/Rhett. I feel that perhaps I need to say that I sometimes feel that the whole diverse movement for books is abit too much and in your face. There’s alot of furore about it and you get told read more diverse books and that authors should write more diverse characters to. Well, Bowen here has done just that and has done in my humble opinion an incredible job of giving these diverse characters a voice. I choose to read what I like, being a fantasy fan I like losing myself in fantasy worlds but I don’t really pay much attention to who writes the books themselves as I read what I want to. For characters, yes, there often is far more white than diverse in books but like myself people read what they like. Being called out for reading what you like to read or writing what you like to write is wrong, Bowen has shown that there are authors out there ready to tackle the diverse issue head on and they deserve praise for that.
I know that you will get some people who won’t read a book just because it has been classified as diverse and that is wrong and yes, they will miss out on some great books, but that goes to for the diverse book readers who won’t read books by white authors as they are also missing out on some quality books.
Both Wake of Vultures and Conspiracy of Ravens are diverse books due to the characters in them and some would say they belong in the diverse genre, while others would say that they should-be in the fantasy genre and the truth is that they should be in both. As, I believe that simply calling a book diverse is sometimes detrimental to the book with people shunning it because of that label. However, those amongst you who would greet a diverse book with open arms are the same people who would then shun a book due to its lack of diversity.
And at times that is wrong, this series to me is both a diverse series but it’s also a fantasy/western series and while reading it I didn’t think oh, look at me, I’m reading a diverse book as to me it was irrelevant what the book was classed as. You know why, because what I was doing was simply reading a damn good book that deserves to be read.
So, yes, lets celebrate diversity in books but we should also be able to read what we want as lots of us use a book as escapism.
To conclude, if someone asked me, is this book diverse? I would tell them, yes, it sure is. But if someone also asked me if it’s a good hybrid of fantasy and western? Then I would also tell them, yes it sure is. And, if someone asked me for a book recommendation I would certainly recommend this series……As all three statements are true it’s a diverse book but it’s also a great fantasy/western hybrid that I would highly recommend and surely at the end of the day that is what most book lovers should savour and celebrate, the simple chance to read a damn good book!