Book Review: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

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The Big Water came. The world changed. The monsters returned. This is the Sixth World.

Maggie Hoskie is a Diné, or Navajo, monster hunter. And the reservation where she grew up is now Dinétah, a land surrounded by walls on each side to keep out those would try to colonize the land all over again. But sometimes what’s inside the walls is enough to give you nightmares.

Her mentor, a living legend who broke Maggie’s heart, abandoned her almost two years ago without another thought. She’s been hiding out, trying to put the pieces of her life back together. Unfortunately, the monsters don’t care that she’s experiencing emotional turmoil and when one of them abducts a little girl, Maggie knows what she has to do.

What Maggie finds when she tracks the little girl down is a lot of scary questions that need answers. The kind of monster she is tracking is one she has seen before–the kind that took her family from her. But this type of monster is made and someone is controlling it, and she needs to know who.

With the help of a handsome and charismatic medicine man named Kai, Maggie sets off to find the one responsible and do what she does best–kill them. But she’s up against more than just monsters. Witches, legends, and a meddling Coyote could mean she’s finally found a fight she can’t win. And if she doesn’t, the world will end. Again.

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It was hard to write that summary because no matter what I said I couldn’t do the story justice. It’s also really difficult to write coherently when I’m this excited. I’m going to take a deep breath and try not to oversell this one for you.

Deep breath. Okay. I’m ready.

This is the best thing I’ve read this year.

Let’s start with some of the things I liked. I say “some” because if I listed them all, this post would be encyclopedic in length.

I like Fantasy novels that incorporate mythology into the storyline. The trouble is, so many of the stories have been done to death. This is the first Fantasy I’ve read that uses Navajo, or more accurately Diné, mythology as its base and it was awesome. It was new (to me), it was gripping, and it sucked me in so much that now I’m counting down to April of 2019 so I can read the sequel.

Maggie is both strong and vulnerable in all the best ways. And by best I mean relatable. She knows she can kick butt, but she’s not great with people. She’s been burned and is afraid of letting people in because they might break her heart, or she might break them. But she doesn’t let that fear hold her back from her calling. With a custom grip shotgun that uses corn pollen bullets and a Böker hunting knife, she lays waste to the things that go bump in the night. I also love her sense of humor.

The supporting cast is lovable, flawed, and full of depth. It wouldn’t shock me at all if fanfiction involving Tah or Clive starting popping up in the near future. And Maggie isn’t the only woman who can hold her own. Grace and her daughter Rissa are smart, capable women who nobody would ever dare call damsels.

Clan powers. They’re super cool.

Okay, now that it’s getting harder and harder to rein in the gushing, let me talk about a couple of things I didn’t like.

When Maggie first begins to track the monster, she has flashbacks to when another monster hurt her. She has already mentioned that sometimes humans are the worst monsters of all. For a moment, I was afraid the flashback was going to allude to some sort of sexual assault. The kind that makes me put a book down. Luckily, I was so determined to read this book that I’d been excited about since I first saw the blurb go up on Goodreads that I kept going and discovered it was a flashback of a trauma, but not one of a sexual nature. However, if this easily triggers you, please be careful in the first couple of chapters while she hunts for the little girl and her captor.

The relationship that Maggie has with her mentor is understandable based on her backstory, but when you finally meet him he bears the stench of an abuser. Emotionally and in at least one specific instance physically, though they were in a fighting ring at the time. I concede that this may be because of who he is in Diné mythology, and since I know so little about him I didn’t know to expect it. In any case, be aware that there is an emotionally abusive relationship on the page. It is not a romanticized one, but it is there.

Those were my sticking points.

Part of me really wants to see this one made into a movie if for nothing else than to watch the scene where Clive helps Maggie get ready for The Shalimar. Also, I now solidly believe that mocassins are superior footwear for monster slayers. I want to see more of that.

If you’ve been seeing this book mentioned on social media or on Goodreads, but weren’t really sure if you should give it a shot, I encourage you to go for it.

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