The Wailing Woman by Maria Lewis
Piatkus, ebook, £3.99
Reviewed by Lottie Lightfoot
The Wailing Woman is the fifth book in a shared universe, where author Maria Lewis gives our old myths and legends a much welcomed feminist reboot. The book has been shortlisted for both a Vogel Award and for Best Fantasy Novel in the Aurealis Awards, and it’s easy to see why.
It’s difficult to give age old folklore a facelift for the modern day, but Lewis does so with ease. Unbeknownst to humans, supernatural folk live alongside them, often seamlessly blending into their surroundings. Supernatural creatures, from ghouls and goblins to vampires and witches, live under the rigid thumb of a centuries old government body that does its best to keep things in order – often to the detriment of creatures’ liberties and freedoms.
This particular story in Lewis’ “Supernatural Sisters” universe follows Sadie Burke, a banshee who was mutilated and rendered mute to prevent her feared banshee wail, and Texas Contos, an Askari – a policeman of sorts for the supernatural community – and the son of the man who had ordered Sadie’s mutilation. Each chapter flips between their points of view, which adds a fresh perspective and depth to the storyline, and a little bit of frustration when the pair are at odds and can’t see eye to eye. The pair, separated after Sadie losing her voice and her wail, are reunited after a decade apart and almost immediately find themselves on the run from the Treize as they quickly begin to uncover secrets kept hidden by the government for years. The story is fast paced and engaging, and Lewis delivers on the action, romance, and drama.
The theme of female empowerment is strong throughout the novel. It is, at its heart, a tale of a young woman finding her voice and her power after having it taken away from her – by men who want to keep her from her true power. The symbolism is strong throughout the book. The supernatural women whom Sadie encounters on her journey come together and help her along the way, the novel making it clear the importance of sisterhood and women standing together. Plenty of people help the pair as they go on the run. Some characters are more heavily featured than others, but all have life breathed into them and each carry their own intrigue.
The Wailing Woman is a new volume within the “Supernatural Sisters” universe, but with plenty of references to Lewis’ earlier works, including cameos from characters who featured more prominently in previous volumes. I found some parts, particularly concerning the supernatural government and its operations, a little hard to follow. That was my fault and not Lewis’ as I hadn’t read the previous books. While the book is a delightful, standalone read that I would gladly recommend, it is perhaps best enjoyed with the context of the previous “Supernatural Sisters” volumes. I encourage you to seek them out, as I know I will be doing so.