Title: Trail of the Dead (Killer of Enemies #2)
Author: Joseph Bruchac
Publisher: Tu Books
Genres: Action/Adventure, Dystopia/Post-Apocalyptic
Review Copy: ARC from publisher
Availability: October 1, 2015
Summary: In the sequel to the award-winning Killer of Enemies, Apache teen Lozen and her family are looking for a place of refuge from the despotic Ones who once held them captive and forced Lozen to hunt genetically engineered monsters.
Lozen and her allies travel in search of a valley where she and her family once found refuge. But life is never easy in this post-apocalyptic world. When they finally reach the valley, they discover an unpleasant surprise awaiting them―and a merciless hunter following close behind.
Hally, their enigmatic Bigfoot friend, points them to another destination―a possible refuge. But can Lozen trust Hally? Relying on her wits and the growing powers that warn her when enemies are near, Lozen fights internal sickness to lead her band of refugees to freedom and safety. Alongside family, new friends, and Hussein, the handsome young man whose life she saved, Lozen forges a path through a barren land where new recombinant monsters lurk and the secrets of this new world will reveal themselves to her… whether she wants them to or not.
Review: Bruchac is a master storyteller. From the beginning to the end, he weaves a tapestry made of many intriguing stories. They come from many sources. Much of the book is told from Lozen’s point of view. She shares stories told by her father, uncle and mother. Some of my favorite stories revolve around Coyote. The video below is Bruchac reading a portion of the book involving Coyote if you’d like a sample.
Other parts of the book are delivered through the eyes of her enemy. That adds a rather disturbing twist to the tale. Her enemy’s mind is not a pleasant place to visit and his world view is horrifying. His complete lack of empathy and his pure enjoyment of other people’s misery can be unsettling and more than a little creepy. Once in a while it was unclear who was narrating at the beginning of a chapter. That could be a little confusing for readers, but it becomes clear eventually. I couldn’t tell if that was a deliberate tactic on Bruchac’s part or not, but he did have me puzzled a few times.
I appreciated the inner conflict that Lozen was facing in addition to the monsters outside. Her phenomenal skills would have been unbelievable if she didn’t have weaknesses somewhere. All of the killing she has done begins to take a toll on her mentally and spiritually. She realizes that there is a dark side to what she’s been doing even though she has only been killing to protect herself and her family.
I also appreciated getting to know some of the other characters. Killer of Enemies focused in on Lozen, but in this second book, Lozen is grappling with her inner turmoil and is forced to rely on others. As she allows more people to get past her defenses, readers get to learn more about them. If you were wondering, yes, the love interest does become more interesting. This aspect of the book doesn’t overwhelm or become the sole focus of the story, but it does add another intriguing layer.
Even with all of the developing relationships and internal conflict, there is still plenty of action in the story. Bruchac doesn’t spare us the details either. We see the monsters up close along with weapons, blood, guts and gruesomeness often at top speed.
When I finished reading, one of the first things that popped into my head was this is a very entertaining book. There was plenty of action, introspection and even humor. I had to smile then when I read the author’s note. Bruchac explained that while there are certainly important lessons to be learned in this series, “My first aim is to entertain you.” I would say that his goal was met.
Recommendation: Get it soon especially if you read and enjoyed Killer of Enemies. This is one of those books that will keep you on the edge of your seat and will even get a laugh or two out of you along the way.
Goodreads Book Giveaway (through September 28, 2015)
Joseph Bruchac reads from Chapter 15
My mini-review of Rose Eagle (prequel e-novella to Killer of Enemies)