I am a fan and repeat student of world mythologies. Stories from the varied cultures and perspectives of the world paint a broader and more colorful picture of just how rich and unexplored our histories and cultural traditions really are — and how interconnected all of humanity is.
I grew up reading all the same science fiction and fantasy stories everyone else was reading in the 1970s and 1980s; then sometime in the early 1990s, I grew tired of fantasy, bored and annoyed with reading the same quest adventure with the same trope-like characters, with barely even minor attempts at changing said characters. I had in fact given up on the genre. I still read space opera, and dabbled in classic horror, but I had stopped picking up fantasy novels on a whim while browsing the bookstores, nothing beyond looking at the cover art drawn by a handful of favorite artists.
I have to thank Heroes Die (and maybe also the original Game of Thrones novel) for showing me that fantasy wasn’t dead, that maybe the genre wasn’t just a handful of the same few tired medieval adventure quests told over and over any longer. But for a while, I did have to look a little harder, and fortunately, there was this relatively new thing called the internet that I used to search out more books with stories from other cultures.
In Trail of Lightning, we step into a world that has been devastated by an apocalypse driven by climate change, a fractured United States where the rise of the sea has devastated all the coastlines, and drowned most of the world. This is how the Fifth World died, giving rise to the Sixth World in its final breath.
In the aftermath, the new Dinétah rises from the old Navajo reservation, and to protect their own, the people build a barrier with old magic. This land is still untamed and dangerous, one where new monsters and ancient dark forces have risen to wander freely, and there are old gods and new heroes to counter them.
There are those who are strong enough or gifted enough to defend against those forces, and Maggie Hoskie is one of them. She’s powerful, a little scary, and a lot angry. She was trained by Neizghání (an immortal and legend) once her powers manifested, but now she’s been left on her own, abandoned by her mentor/lover, and she’s still working a few things out. Luckily, she doesn’t have to hold back when dealing with monsters and other creatures preying on humans.
As a monster hunter-for-hire, Maggie is called in when a young girl goes missing from a close-knit town, and in the process of tracking the monster responsible, she discovers that there’s much more to this monster than originally believed. It’s stronger, smarter and more dangerous than anything she’s come across before, and after the mission, she seeks advice from Tah, an elder who’s the last, closest thing she has left to call family.
Tah’s suggestion is that she team up with his grandson, Kai, a powerful and unorthodox healer (with some other tricks he’s keeping close to the vest), a prospect that she is none too happy with, but their combined knowledge and skills will be key to stopping these monsters and the ones unleashing them.
Maggie’s rage, and Kai’s secrets seem to be their biggest obstacles to overcome, but each clue they uncover that leads them closer to the reason why these new monsters are appearing and what’s driving/controlling them also reveals more questions than answers. Something dark and ancient is on the move, and too many people — heroes, gods and monsters — only have a few pieces of the picture.
I’m so glad this is the first in a series. I just wish I could read the next book NOW, because I’ve already read this one twice.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Series: The Sixth World
Publisher: Saga Press (June 26, 2018)
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 best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World.