|Cover by Sam Sephton|
Piatkus, 30 April 2020
Available as: PB, 403pp, e
Read as: advance PB copy
I'm grateful to the publisher for a free advance copy of The Wailing Woman to consider for review.
In a further instalment of her shared-world urban fantasy sequence (following Who's Afraid?, Who's Afraid Too? and The Witch Who Courted Death) in The Wailing Woman, Maria Lewis looks at the banshee, the bean sidhe, the otherworld woman whose voice heralds death.
Dangerous women. Powerful women. Women who, perhaps regrettably, must be hushed - for the good of all, you understand.
There's, obviously, strong feminist potential in this and the point won't be lost on the reader but it is also - indeed primarily - a story of growing up, finding one's voice, of falling in love, doubting one's love, and of holding onto that love in a hostile world.
The story opens with a monstrous (I use the world deliberately) being done to nine year old Sadie Burke, youngest in a family of seven banshees living in Australia to which all of her people were exiled two hundred years ago. Forced ever since to abide by the "Covenant", which circumscribes their powers and keeps them weak and dependant, the banshees are almost outcast, forgotten by most of the supernaturals and only watched, it seems, by the Askari, the police of the supernatural world. It's one of the Askari - Andres Contos - who does Sadie that wrong and it's Andres's son, Texas, who comes back into her life years late, a fully fledged officer of the Askari, entering into all his power and privilege.
Can there be anything between them?
Can Sadie trust her feelings?
Can she trust Texas Contos?
This is a powerful book, but it's also great fun. We feel some familiar figures again, and learn more about Lewis's supernatural world. I loved the fact that there is opposition here to a brutally hierarchical setup rather than acceptance of it because of what might happen if the order is upset. I loved the fact this position is people - supernatural people of all types - rather than a side effect of some sort of external or diabolic plot. It's politics, it's the desire for freedom and justice, it's liberating.
It isn't the sort of read where what's happening is obscure and has to be pieced together from hints and clues, the broad lines are clear and it's only really detail that is filled in. So, yes, we learn that the banshees aren't what is generally believed - but all the same they are being held down and appressed, which is the main point.
It is the sort of read where the action can erupt into a no holds barred fight, with some gruesome consequences - this is not a safe world - as Sadie and Texas find their world upside down and have to save themselves. In calmer moments (well perhaps not so calm...) they discover a great deal about themselves and each other - but that basic issue of trust remains and Lewis makes Sadie's dilemma clear, faced with danger to herself and danger to those she loves, what is she to do?
A book I really enjoyed and clearly Lewis isn't done yet. This series goes from strength to strength.
And finally: I know you're not supposed to judge a book by the cover. But. LOOK AT THAT COVER!
For more information about the book see the publisher's website here.