Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
DISCLAIMER: I was provided with an advanced reading copy of the UK edition of this book by the publisher in return for an honest and unbiased review. My thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for giving me this opportunity.
Maggie Hoskie is a Diné (Navajo) hunter in a post-apocalyptic world, gifted with hereditary clan powers that give her an edge over the monsters she hunts. Brought out of self-imposed exile by a group of locals being terrorised by a new type of monster, she soon finds herself chasing after the witch who is apparently creating these monsters. Along the way she picks up the help of Kai, a young man with big medicine, and Ma’ii, the Coyote of Diné legend. But as Maggie soon begins to learn, nothing is truly what it seems in what’s left of the world after the destruction wrought by the Big Water.
This book came out in the States last year and I’d been planning on picking a copy up at some point, so when the UK edition turned up on NetGalley a couple of months ago I didn’t think twice about requesting a copy. I was intrigued by the premise, a traditional Navajo monster hunter in a post-apocalyptic world, and as a result I was eager to give it a read.
I’ll admit this is a book you really need to focus your attention on; it’s not one you can skim read and hope to take in. The narrative relies quite heavily on the use of Navajo folklore and as a result the text is liberally peppered with Diné terms, which can be quite difficult to keep track of if you’re not paying attention. However, if you give it the time and manage to keep those terms straight in your mind this is a pretty rewarding read.
Once you get past the linguistic barrier, the writing style is punchy and relatively easy to read, especially during the various action sequences that are scattered through the story. In addition, the principal characters are reasonably well written and interesting enough to make the reader want them to succeed, though Maggie’s constant self-doubt did occasionally make me want to yell at her to just get on with it. Still, with a little help from friends she does manage to get over herself in time for the final showdown between the good guys and the bad guys.
This is definitely an entertaining read, and the use of Native American folklore certainly makes it stand out from the crowd somewhat. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary urban fantasy with a twist and a genuinely strong female protagonist. Not quite worth a full four stars, though it only just falls short.