I found The Wailing Woman an absolute delight to read. As a Buffy fan from way back I always love an urban fantasy, and I think Maria Lewis might be an absolute master of the genre. Here’s the synopsis from the Hachette Australia website – read on to find out some of my favourite things about this one!
Good girls don’t talk back. Good girls don’t cry. Good girls don’t scream.
Sadie Burke has been forced to be a good girl her entire life. As a banshee, she’s the bottom of the ladder when it comes to the supernatural hierarchy. Weak. Condemned. Powerless. Silent. That’s what she and her six sisters have been told their entire lives, since their species was first banished from Ireland.
Yet when a figure from her childhood unexpectedly arrives on the scene, Sadie finds it harder than ever to toe the line.
Texas Contos is the son of their greatest oppressor. He’s also someone she’s inexplicably drawn to, and as they grow closer, Sadie begins to question what banshees have been told for centuries about their gifts.
But the truth comes at a cost. With Sadie and Tex forced to run for their lives, their journey leads them to new friends, old enemies, and finally to her true voice – one that could shatter the supernatural world forever.
I felt like this being a story with banshees at the centre made it quite unique and it felt really fresh to me – I don’t think I have come across banshees in anything I’ve read (or real life, for that matter) before and I loved being introduced to a new-to-me mythology. I also thought it was a really clever way to explore the ways in which women are silenced and controlled.
The world and mythology building was also clever – the setting felt really Australian (but not in an obvious vegemite and shrimps on the barbie kind of way) and the explaining of the mythology felt subtle but strong too. I always felt like the world and society were unfolding in front of me, rather than being explained to me, if that makes sense. There is also a glossary in the back of the book of creatures and organisation, in case you miss anything!
Another thing that felt really natural to me, and that I loved, was the diversity of the characters. There are people in here with a range of sexualities, genders, body shapes, abilities, and more. These characteristics were never the ‘main story’ of the characters – it always felt to me like it was just part of who they were, and it never felt like Lewis was trying to force more diversity into the book.
Sadie and her sisters were some of my favourite characters ever. Their bond felt really authentic – I loved the way they made fun of each other but were also fiercely protective at the same time. They just felt like they would be great to hang out with. Tex was also a great character – I liked the way his family contrasted with the Burkes, and I loved seeing his friendship with Sadie grow.
There were some pretty violent/gory bits to this, and also some super sexy bits, but none of it ever felt gratuitous to me. Really my only complaint with this book was that I didn’t’ want it to be over! While it has a perfectly satisfactory ending if it were stand alone (compared to some books that finish in a cliff hanger, I mean) I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye!
I think this will be a good read for people who loved The Ninth House and are looking for their next urban fantasy obsession! I also suspect there will be a lot of people who think they don’t like fantasy who would love this – I feel like urban fantasy is a really accessible genre, since the reader doesn’t have to imagine the entire world – there is already something concrete and recognisable to them, which I think makes people feel more comfortable and less intimidated. In any case, expect to see more of it here in the next little while because I’m feeling a bit obsessed haha.
tl:dr? The Wailing Woman is one of my favourite reads this year! It’s fierce and feministy and diverse and just a ready fun ride. Pick it up – even if you think you don’t like fantasy!
The Wailing Woman by Maria Lewis
Out now from Hachette Australia
Source: Thanks so much to Hachette Australia for sending me a free copy to review!
Category: Urban fantasy set in Australia
Themes: Feminism, family, friendship
Format: Trade paperback, 399 pages