Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
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.
Trail of Lightning is Supernatural meets The Walking Dead all set on a Navajo reservation. It’s a gritty post-apocalyptic fantasy charged with adrenaline and clan magic. Like nothing I’ve ever read before.
First off, I feel like I need to warn you that this is a blood and guts book. Definitely not a good choice for the weak of stomach. But if that’s your poison, you’ll love this book. It was violent nearly to the point of gratuitous, but nearly always with a sense of purpose. Descriptive. Very descriptive. I could see it all as clearly as if I was watching a gory zombie flick. Which, you know, isn’t really for me personally, but was entertaining as hell.
Maggie is a monster hunter, and definitely an antihero. She has badass clan powers, which are the primary fantasy aspect of this book, that make her faster, stronger, and all around better at killing. But those same clan powers make Maggie fear that she’s only a hair’s breath away from becoming the very monsters she hunts. She’s not a particularly likable or relatable heroine, but her battles with inner conflict really resonated with me. Despite her cocky air and swagger, she’s really unsure of herself and what she’s supposed to do. I CAN RELATE TO THAT, GIRL.
I loved the gritty western feel, which I guess isn’t unusual for a post-apocalyptic book, but was new to me. The imagery of the dessert with the old-fashioned vehicles and barbed wire fences really worked for a bloody adventure. The aesthetic was cool.
The Navajo reservation was a one-of-a-kind setting that felt so authentic. Roanhoarse is part American-Indian, so this is an own voices novel. (Bonus, she’s got a Rick Riordan Presents novel scheduled for next year, yay!) It was so cool to learn more about Navajo culture and legends, but in the context of a monster hunt. The only criticism I would offer on this front was that a pronunciation guide would have been really nice.
And this wasn’t just a mindless slasher book. Roanhorse touched on the refugee crisis, global warming, historical mistreatment of American Indians, prejudice, police brutality, all without getting preachy or feeling like a call to action. All those elements gave the book a feeling of depth without taking anything away from the action.
My only criticism of the book would be that for an adventure-style fantasy, it moved a little slowly. I don’t mean that the pacing was slow, because it definitely was not. Rather, the mystery of what’s going on didn’t really unravel at all until the last thirty pages or so, when it all fell apart at once. I felt like the story was just kind of meandering around until the very end. The crescendo just didn’t build very evenly, I guess.
I would highly recommend this book to zombie lovers or Supernatural fangirls. Or fanboys. We need a gender neutral word for that… Supernatural fanpeople will love this book. Its a fun, disgusting read, and I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen in the rest of this series!