“But I’m no hero. I’m more of a last resort, a scorched-earth policy. I’m the person you hire when the heroes have already come home in body bags” (2).
There’s nothing like the feeling when you discover the first book in a series and it hits all your readerly buttons. I was pretty sure I was going to like Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse when I read about it—searching for women Native American authors to support (in the aftermath of the Sherman Alexie scandal.) I actually bought a copy for my sister for our second annual Christmas Eve Jolabokaflod celebration. And she bought a copy for me. [We also both bought each other Eargasm ear plugs for Christmas—a sign that great minds think alike and that now after 3+ decades of concert going, we’re finally concerned about our hearing . . . but I digress.]
The hero (or last resort) of this series is Maggie Hoskie, a Navajo monster hunter. In the future of this novel, a catastrophic flood has swamped much of the United States and the Dinetah lands have become a safe haven of sorts—protected by a giant wall, part engineering marvel and part supernatural barrier, that was put up by tribal elders to protect the land from multinational corporations during a series of Energy Wars. But, as Maggie ruefully notes, “And we were safe. Safe from the outside world, at least. But sometimes the worst monsters are the ones within” (23).
It is just such a monster that Maggie is hired to hunt down at the beginning of this novel. Though originally the apprentice of Neizghani, an immortal monster slayer, Maggie is now on her own, abandoned by her mentor (and lover) and living with a pack of rez dogs in a run down trailer. She reluctantly accepts the job to track down this monster who has taken a young girl but what she finds when she catches up to the zombie-like creature is not what she expects and it hints at bigger problems to come.
Rebecca Roanhorse does some quick and skillful world-building here without every slowing down the plot—which involves mythical characters like Coyote (or Ma’ii), more realistic groups of post-apocalyptic survivors, and a powerful force that is destroying whole villages. Reluctantly, Maggie teams up with Kai Arviso, a flirtatious but skilled medicine man, and Grace Goodacre, the owner of the All-American, a bar that is more like a military compound. Maggie struggles with the nature of her clan powers, which blur the line between monster and monster hunter, and like all good Chosen ones, Maggie will learn that she can’t go it alone. However, that knowledge comes at a price.
The only problem with starting a series like this early on in its run is that you have to impatiently wait for the author to write the next installment. Luckily, book 2, Storm of Locusts, comes out in March so I (and you) don’t have to wait too long.