Sixteen-year old Nettie Lonesome, half Indian half black, abandoned by parents she was too young to remember, has spent the last fourteen years slaving for abusive, drunken Pap and Mam on their broken down ranch outside of Gloomy Bluebird, a town barely worthy of the name in Durango territory. Aside from a talent for bronc busting encouraged by Monty, her only friend and a cowhand at the neighboring Double TK, her existence is pretty joyless, until one night she sort of accidentally stakes a vampire. Then she starts seeing monsters everywhere, more vampires, shapeshifters, chupacabras. Worse, she sees their victims, including a woman who dies and then begins to haunt her from horseback, calling for Nettie to go after the Pia Mupitsi, or the Big Cannibal Owl, who stole away the woman’s child. Nettie refuses the call to adventure until the monsters give her no choice and off she goes, even if she only barely knows how to shoot her newly acquired pistol and has no idea where to find or fight the Big Cannibal Owl.
What I like most here is the voice, reminiscent of Charles Portis in True Grit in its plainspoken and unflinching delivery of the facts, just with monsters. Here she meets Coyote Dan, a shapeshifter from whom she learns some monsters aren’t bad.
Nettie sighed deeply and cleaned her black-stained knife on her now-ruined pants. “Well, lead on, mister. You don’t seem to know what pants are, but you know where I’m hurt and how my horse is feeling, so I suspect you can at least find water.”
He shifted the bow on his shoulder. “You are an unkind woman.”
Not unkind, just careful. From Dan she discovers that she is the Shadow, a warrior destined to kill monsters, and she begins to remember that she wasn’t always Mam and Pap’s slave. Here she interviews for a job with the Rangers.
“Can you shoot?”
“Can you fight?”
Nettie shrugged. “I can stab a monster in the heart. Probably stab a man, too.”
Yep. Fun stuff, and an obvious first book in a series.