Book Review

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

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I heard about this book on Saturday night when I was browsing Goodreads for fantasy and science fiction books to read.  I came across #booktubeSFFAwards2019 (I think I’m saying that right) and realized that the judges were hosting a few read-alongs in the month of May.  Browsing the books I realized that most of them were the second or third books in  a series and since I have quite a few books in progress right now…. Ok, not as many as some other reviewers and bloggers who are much more experienced than I am….. I’m just not as good at keeping all the stories right in my head if I try to read more than two or three books at a time…. I picked this one.  For no other reason than the fact that it is the first in a series.  I knew I was going to spend my Sunday reading since we were going to be stuck in the house while Mother Nature poured down on us forcing us to relax and just hang.

I knew absolutely nothing about the book and to tell you all the truth I didn’t even read any reviews before hitting the “buy” button on my kindle.  To say I was a bit taken by surprise is an understatement.  I mean, I knew it was fantasy, there would be monsters and magic and battles…. that’s what I knew and actually, in a way what I was hoping for.  What I got was….. Wow!!!!!!!

The story follows Maggie Hoskie, a Native American after the United States have succumbed to a massive environmental and political collapse.  In order to protect their people the Gods protected the Nation by erecting a wall (Ohhh noooo, that this wall talk again…..)  to keep the residents away from the chaos taking place outside.  This does not mean that inside the wall things were pleasant.  Far from it….. within the walls there are water and food shortages and monsters have started roaming the earth again.

Maggie is “blessed” with magic from her clan.  Most people are.  The magic they receive, it seems to me, comes from both sides of the family (the mother and the father).  Her magic is speed and strength.  We learn that as a young child she suffered a great loss in and is “adopted” by a non-human (a God, Neizghání) who takes her under his mentorship and teaches her the art of monster slaying she eventually falls in love with Neizghání.  However, If you ask me perhaps what she felt was not love but comfort and the freedom that comes from being loved and understood.  It felt to me, while reading the book that Maggie didn’t have much of that after her loss.  Eventually and suddenly one night Neizghání left her without warning and for the rest of the book she is haunted by remembering him and trying to figure out why he left her.

When we met Maggie, at the start of the story she lives alone in a trailer and she seems to be be ok with that although some times I couldn’t help but feel as if she was longing to share her space with someone.  It was obvious that she wanted that to be Neizghání but I felt as if anyone who brought her some comfort would have done it.  She has no friends and no family except for her three dogs and an old medicine man who lives in a different town who calls her “daughter.”

The story begins when Maggie is hired by a the family of a young girl who has been kidnapped by a monster.  The slaying does not go the way we expect mostly because the monster is not what we or Maggie expected and the young girl dies (Not a spoiler at all).  Ashe returns the remains of the girl to the family, Maggie drives to seek some comfort from the medicine man and that’s where she meets Kai, the medicine man’s grandson, who becomes her traveling companion.  The story takes off from here and ….. It never stops moving….. FAST.

This book is full of action and some times there was so much going on at the same time that I forgot where I was supposed to be looking.  Most of the time we follow the two characters traveling around the Navaho nation looking for things as a way to introduce us to the world and the characters.

The world building was done very well and it was very easy to imagine myself there (not that I would ever want to be there).  Likewise, I felt that the characters were well developed and aside from a few small flaws that got on my nerves, I never felt like I didn’t know a character well enough.  If there is one complaint I have here is overly verbose descriptions which sometimes made the reading slow and made me a bit frustrated.  The other thing that continuously pulled me out of the story were the names. I think this is a problem with me not necessarily the writer.  I felt like I had to read and re-read the names of the towns, the nations and the people in order to get them right and get a feel for who they were.  Not being a native speaker I guess that’s always a problem. I’m not sure ….. Maybe just my problem?

The battles between Maggie and the monsters are described so meticulously that at times they became so real and violent that it made it difficult to continue reading.  There were instances when I had to turn off he e-reader and take a little water break.  This book is not shy on violence.

The novel’s pace was fast and kept me interested and curious wanting to turn the page.  However, as I said above, I could have used a small breather between each action.  It kept me turning the pages.  The only time that it got boring or annoying was during the narration of the landscape or how descriptive some of the passages were.  There are easier ways to get the message across without using so many words.

The climax was….. WOW….. super climaxy (I made up a word) and I could not wait to keep reading.  I felt tired, almost as if I were one of the characters standing there at the end of the story.  One of the plot points did not feel well closed at the end but I’m wondering if that will be resolved in the next book.  I’d love to discuss it here but I don’t want to give anything away…… I was. bit confused about it and can’t wait to see what others thing and if they bring it up.  It has to do with Kai….. If you must know.

This is a really fast enjoyable read and kept me interested.  I think the cliffhanger at the end can take the story in a whole lot of different directions and I’m sure we are all wondering what direction the author is going to be taken 🙂 (I believe the book leads the author and not the other way around).

Great read a solid four stars.