Title: A Snake Falls to Earth
Author: Darcie Little Badger
Publisher: Levine Querido
Review copy: Digital ARC via Edelweiss
Availability: The digital version releases on 11/9/21. The hard copy and audio will be on shelves on 11/23/21.
Publisher summary: Nina is a Lipan girl in our world. She’s always felt there was something more out there. She still believes in the old stories. Oli is a cottonmouth kid, from the land of spirits and monsters. Like all cottonmouths, he’s been cast from home. He’s found a new one on the banks of the bottomless lake.
Nina and Oli have no idea the other exists. But a catastrophic event on Earth, and a strange sickness that befalls Oli’s best friend, will drive their worlds together in ways they haven’t been in centuries. And there are some who will kill to keep them apart.
A Snake Falls to Earth is a breathtaking work of Indigenous futurism. Darcie Little Badger draws on traditional Lipan Apache storytelling structure to weave another unforgettable tale of monsters, magic, and family. It is not to be missed.
My thoughts: This is a story to fall into and savor. The slow unwinding of the tale allows the characters and the readers to have many discoveries as details come to light. It was like standing behind an artist and watching the canvas be filled in or watching as a sculpture is slowly taking shape. I was fascinated by the story and was surprised many times as the story took unexpected twists and turns. At the same time, it was a delight because those twists felt exactly right.
The narratives of Oli and Nina are distinctly different, but there were also interesting parallels and so many things tied them together though they only discover that over time. This interconnectedness of life and all beings is central to everything that is happening.
While the relatedness of beings in our world and beyond is important, the beings themselves are worth noting. Having lived in the Houston area, alligators are something I encountered quite a few times and the image of a six-foot-tall alligator woman was incredibly vivid and enthralling. For example, her scales “were spiny, covering her neck, shoulders, and–most alarmingly–her knuckles, like armor.” The pages of this book are filled with many intriguing beings.
Another aspect of the story revolved around language. Language carries knowledge and culture and it’s an incredible loss when it is no longer used. Nina has heard and treasured many old stories, but with one of the stories, her great-great-grandmother used mostly Lipan words which was no longer spoken fluently by anyone. Nina is determined to find a way to unlock the meaning of the words and the story though.
My recommendation: This is one of those books that has something for pretty much everyone. There’s mystery, fantasy, friendship and a found family, action, adventure, Lipan Apache and ace representation, monsters, history, futurism, and probably more that I’m forgetting. It’s also just a lot of fun. And if that’s not enough to get your attention, it’s also been long-listed for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Get it as soon as possible.