Book reviews / Fantasy

Book review: Trail of Lightning

I’m pleased to have finally a) picked up this book b) read this book c) enjoyed this book.

I remember it being tweeted about as it was written by Rebecca Roanhorse, an indigenous writer. It’s very much like an urban fantasy…but not really urban and drawing on Navajo myths and culture instead of fairies and vampires.

For a debut novel, it was excellent. I have my criticisms but I think they are more minor than anything. Overall, it was a compelling read, with really interesting and flawed characters – making them feel like real people.

The world building is fabulous. There’s been some global warming catastrophe, with rising sea levels and a host of other issues referenced obliquely throughout the book. However, it has also heralded in the Sixth Age, where the Navajo gods have returned to Earth and members of the Dinétah can manifest ‘clan powers’. Basically, superpower like characteristics based on their family line.

At the same time, there seems to be a monster plague. Which Maggie and Kai (the other main character) have to deal with. So while they proceed to unravel the mystery of why these monsters are appearing, we also get to know Maggie and Kai. They are both hiding things from each other, both damaged from their paths but also trying to be better. I really loved the character development and the gradual build up of their relationship.

The other thing that was quite pleasing was how self-contained it was as a world. The Dinétah gods basically created a wall around where they live, blocking out the problems of the rest of the world. So, even though there are gods and monsters, it felt manageable. It felt realistic for Maggie and Kai and the host of other interesting characters

Also, some wonderfully written women! Not only Maggie but also some of the characters who show up in the middle of the book like Grace and Clarissa.

There were only a couple of things that didn’t quite work for me. One was the revelation at the end between Kai and Maggie. Without spoiling, I felt it was kind of obvious what Kai’s other clan power was, and the fact that Maggie was pretty good on picking up on some of his traits makes me think that it was just a bit too convenient. However, this was countered by the other ‘HOLY SHIT’ revelation which I will not spoil AT ALL because it was so just well done.

The other bit was that the end felt a bit rushed. The bulk of the book was not so much a slow burn but as evenly paced. However, the final act felt like it jumped really quickly, which was slightly jarring. It would have been nice to have had a bit of a breather between the two major fights. So it took me out of the story slightly, but only a little bit.

But those were minor quibbles. They are overshadowed by how interesting the novel was, how much you wanted the characters to succeed and how urban-fantasy-but-not the set up was. I don’t like the word ‘fresh’ but perhaps that’s a good way of describing it. It’s just different than a lot of fantasy/urban fantasy which works really well in its favour.

Definitely one to pick up.

 

One thought on “Book review: Trail of Lightning

  1. I’d love to read this. I really liked Roanhorse’s short story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience”, so super interested to read anything and everything she has written.

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