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.
Welcome to the Sixth World.
Aw man, I really loved this one. First off, I’m a fan of Urban Fantasy and I’ve read quite a few series in the sub-genre, but this is unlike any Urban Fantasy I’ve read before. Yeah, Maggie is a monster hunter, and yes, there’s even some monster hunting, but it’s definitely not all about hunting monsters. It’s more about the characters, especially Maggie and Kai, struggling with their pasts, their powers, and their place in life.
The setting in this is wonderful and one of the great things about this book. I love apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic stories anyway, and this nailed all of those feelings wonderfully. It’s never really explicit what went down to cause a cataclysm except some sort of environmental disaster which has restructured the U.S. and I’m assuming the rest of the surviving world as well. We’re presented with the world as it is now and the past is mostly inferred, which I’m totally fine with. The author brings a lot to the table with setting this within her own culture as well, and I enjoyed all of the Diné aspects of the story. I almost wished I had listened to it on audio so that I could have heard the pronunciation of some of the words though, because I worry a bit that I was saying things wrong in my head while reading.
The plot sort of meanders a bit and you wonder where it’s going as our characters wander around at points without much of a plan. I think some UF fans that are used to a more straightforward ‘solve the mystery’ plot point A to plot point B structure may struggle a bit with this one, but the meandering didn’t bother me much because I became really invested in the characters which are so wonderfully nuanced. Definitely the best part of the book.
I’m giving huge props to Rebecca Roanhorse here because, to be honest, Maggie is not really a likable character at all. I mean, I didn’t want to have much empathy for her throughout because it feels like she’s so jaded, so bottled up, that she’s become kind of an asshole about everything and rarely wants to give anyone a chance to be her friend anymore. And yet, I couldn’t help but root for her, even when she was being a jerk and pushing people away. I don’t think this is an easy feat for an author to pull off but it was done here excellently. There are tiny bits and pieces that come through, of a Maggie that could be if she’d allow herself to let down her guard, and it’s in those little moments that we get to care about her. Part of her thinks she should just give up and become the monster she thinks she is, but she’s not fully there yet. There’s a little sliver of hope, buried beneath everything, that maybe she’s not a monster after all.
The dynamics between Maggie and Kai are great. Kai is a mysterious character and Maggie is naturally distrustful. And yet she extends to him some trust, tentatively, due to a character between them that they both have mutual trust in. So there’s this lovely dance of ‘what is your deal, I don’t want to like you, I’m not sure about you, maybe you’re ok and maybe you’re not’ thing between them. Kai definitely appears to be more open and welcoming than Maggie, but he’s a charmer and he may or may not have all his cards on the table either. As a reader you find yourself in a similar position as Maggie, wanting to trust Kai, wanting her to trust Kai, but maybe not a hundred percent sure if it’s a good idea to do so. For me, the mystery of both Maggie and Kai’s pasts was much more intriguing than the overall mystery they were trying to solve in the main plot.
Speaking of Maggie’s past…hooooo boy. Well, this woman has been through some stuff and you start to understand her better as the story progresses. There was one part in particular, when faced with something from her past that she had to confront, where I was like ‘I can’t believe the author went there’ but she did, and it made for some wonderfully dramatic storytelling. Kuddos.
Overall, I really loved Trail of Lightning. There are still some things that I think could have worked a little better, but everything else pretty much cancelled out anything that bothered me even a little bit (like the uneven pacing). Because everything else was so well executed. Great read and can’t wait for the next book! 5/5 stars.
Thanks to Wunderkind PR and the folks at Saga Press for providing a copy of this book for review purposes. This did not in any way effect my opinion of the book or my review.