Vulture's Wake by Kirsty Murray
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: April 1, 2010
Publisher: Holiday House
Pages: 256 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
This dystopian, futuristic story is told in the alternating points of view of two teen protagonists, a boy named Callum and a girl named Boadicea, Bo for short. I really enjoy it when a young adult novel is written that way, and I also appreciated the fact that the story is told in past tense, which doesn't draw attention to itself as present tense does.
The story starts with a bang, literally, as Molotov cocktails rain on the roof of the compound where Callum lives. He's kidnapped by his family's enemies, the Outstationers, who sell him as a slave to the cruel owners of a circus who keep him in a cage when they are not training and using him as an acrobat. After several months, Callum manages to escape from his captors and flees into the desert on a motorcycle. When he crashes and is knocked out, Bo rescues him, takes him to the cave where she lives, and nurses him back to health.
Bo hasn't spoken to anyone but robots for years, since her guardian was murdered by Outstationers. She's a "techno-hunter" who survives in a hostile environment by hunting small, desert prey with the aid of a team of "roboraptors." These small, intelligent, highly skilled robots are named Chinky, Thumbelina, Cinderella, Silky and Mr. Pinkwhistle, and they seem almost human in their ability to respond to praise and affectionate pats from Bo.
In a world filled with dangerous, usually evil adults, Bo has been trained to trust no one. But Callum is her age, is lost and afraid, and clearly needs her help. Most importantly, they soon learn they share a common enemy, the Outstationers. When the small territory Bo has staked out becomes too dangerous because the Outstationers are after them, they set out together on a journey across a ravaged continent, seeking a safe haven in the city of Vulture's Gate, in the process relying on each other totally. During the journey, Callum learns something incredible, which causes him to question everything he's been taught by the men who raised him--Bo is a girl. Callum has been told all his life that there are no females on the planet because they were all wiped out by bird flu. Since that time, children have been created by a process that is, presumably, cloning. There are several types of people born that way, "cybrids" and "hybrids."
Like most dystopian novels, the world that Callum and Bo attempt to survive in is utterly bleak. The author is from Australia, and in some ways the world of this story reminds me of the Mad Max films. But there's a big difference in that there are two protagonists whose relationship is fascinating and moving to read about. Callum and Bo are extremely sympathetic characters. They are both survivors who never give up, and they are willing to care and make sacrifices for others.
I rate this story in this way:
World-building for the post-apocalyptic terrain of the story: 5
Action, adventure and conflict: 5