Trail of Lightning

Last year Rebecca Roanhorse won both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards for her short story “Welcome to your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM.” Her first novel, Trail of Lightning, is out, published by Saga Press. I loved the book’s action, its definitely out-of-the-ordinary setting, and Roanhorse’s vivid physical descriptions.

Maggie Hoskie is Navajo, a monster-hunter whose clan powers give her great speed and great killing power. They also, in her mind and in the minds of others, make her a monster herself. Maggie lives in the land of the Dinetah, the former Navajo reservation, which is now sealed off and protected from the rest of the former USA by a magical wall, while the nation-states that remain beyond the wall deal with much larger oceans and the depletion of nearly every resource. This is merely backstory, not part of Maggie’s quest; Maggie is in search of a monster that stole a little girl… and the witch who created that monster. Along the way, Maggie faces a familiar trickster, and her former mentor, a folkloric monster hunter himself, who abandoned her with no explanation or warning nearly a year ago. On her side is Kai, a movie-star handsome man who may be trustworthy, and a few others who reluctantly give Maggie their support.

The book has plenty of action and just enough quiet moments. The descriptions range from the austere beauty of the desert to the groundedness of a hogan; from the laugh-out-loud funny image of Maggie dressed in a Hot-Slayer getup in order to get into a nightclub to the realistic feel of the do-it-yourself businesses and bars and the repurposed vehicles that run, not on fossil fuel, but on moonshine (the distilled kind).

Maggie herself is a difficult, prickly character, shaped not only by PTSD and loss but to some extent by the impact of her clan powers. While she may not be immediately likeable, she is certainly interesting, and I was curious about her from the first few pages.

There is grit and gore throughout the story, but Trail of Lightning reaches back and embraces historic tropes, while speaking in a refreshingly original voice.

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