Title: Trail of Lightning
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Publisher: Saga Press
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopia/Post-Apocalyptic
Review copy: Purchased
Availability: On shelves now
Summary: While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World.
Review: If you are looking a thought-provoking story with action, adventure, suspense, and a nice helping of humor, Trail of Lightning is an excellent choice. Maggie is one impressive and more than slightly intimidating woman. I would not want to do anything to antagonize someone like her, but she’s someone I’d absolutely want on my team if there was a fight. She’s not one to steal your heart endearing charm, but if I was playing Survivor, I’d want to be in her alliance. She’s such a loner though, she might just win the game on her own with no attempt to gather a team. She’d likely succeed too.
When I first heard of this series, I couldn’t help but think of the Killer of Enemies series by Jospeh Bruchac. In that dystopian series, Lozen is an Apache monster killer and she’s strong, efficient, and successful at her job. I wondered if Lozen and Maggie would have so many similarities that it would be distracting to me, but Roanhorse has created a very distinct and intriguing character. The relationships and situations are unique and were quite fascinating. To avoid spoiling, I won’t discuss the specific aspects of the monsters, but believe me, these creatures are the stuff of nightmares. To face them would take serious amounts of courage or an incredible amount of ignorance.
Roanhorse wove imagination and Dinétah culture together. She’s an Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo/African American writer who’s done research and made attempts to “stay in her lane,” as she explains in the author’s note. I will be interested to see reviews and reactions from members of the Diné (Navajo) Nation. In an interview posted at Tor.com, Roanhorse explained that she wanted Maggie to be recognizably Navajo, but she didn’t want the cover image to be that stereotypical Native non-Natives would expect. Throughout the book, Maggie demonstrates unique aspects of Dinétah culture and most importantly, she’s a muti-faceted character who learns, grows, faces challenges, and takes us along on her perilous journey.
Other characters in the story also shine brightly. Kai Arviso, a trickster, and Maggie’s mentor have taken up residence in my mind and will likely linger for quite some time. Roanhorse writes in such a way that my brain was filled with visuals.
Trail of Lightning has obvious monsters, but underlying this is the question of what or who really is a monster. Maggie wonders where that line can be drawn. She’s become a killing machine. Is she also a monster? Can a person keep themselves from crossing the line? Aside from Maggie, readers must ask themselves what has brought civilization to this point? Which monsters created this new reality or did it just naturally happen? Are we heading down the same path now? There’s much to think about as is often the case in dystopian stories.
Along with these philosophical ponderings, humor shows up throughout the book. It’s often subtle and/or brief, but it is most certainly there.
Recommendation: Get it now. Trail of Lightning brings readers into a compelling story with characters who will linger with you. I can’t wait to read Storm of Locusts, the next installment of the series.
Reading and Q&A with Rebecca Roanhorse
Tor.com interview posted by Stubby the Rocket, “Rebecca Roanhorse on Which Aspects of Diné Culture Are Featured in Trail of Lightning”