Title: Trail of Lightning
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Series: The Sixth World, #1
Publisher: Saga Press
Release Date: June 26th 2018
Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning is a ferocious and intoxicating fantasy novel that will keep readers on the edge of their seat from start to finish. Maggie Hoskie only knows how to do one thing well: kill monsters. Not a bad skill when you live in a world where monsters walk the land, lying in wait for their next victim. Ever since her mentor abandoned her, Maggie’s been going it alone. When a job brings her into contact with a monster whose behavior deviates greatly from the ones she’s been hunting for years, she stumbles upon a mystery. Someone is using witchcraft to create these creatures. With little to go on, Maggie must accept help from Kai Arviso, a medicine man in training whose amicable disposition is a far cry from Maggie’s often hostile personality. Their journey leads them to more questions than answers and closer to an enemy that may be impossible to kill.
Rare is the book that strikes a perfect balance between world-building and characterization, but Trail of Lightning does just that. Roanhorse’s post-apocalyptic setting sets the stage for a dangerous and unpredictable world. While much of the world outside Dinétah has been decimated, the reservation has protected itself with the Wall, meant to keep out the chaos that followed a series of environmental catastrophes. But resources inside the reservation continue to grow scarce and the Wall had no way of protecting the people from the monsters within. There are also the Diyn Dine’é, the “Holy People”, godlike beings who have once again emerged to play a role in the story of the Diné people. With the world taking new shape, many Diné have also undergone a metamorphosis. Supernatural abilities have manifested themselves in the form of clan powers. For Maggie, being part of the Honágháahnii (“one walks around) and K’aahanáanii (“living arrow”) clans, makes her unnaturally fast and an efficient killer.
Maggie has been training and hunting monsters for years, her drive is borne out of a tragic past when she lost the last person who truly cared about her. It’s easier for her not to care, to brush off the whispers behind her back, to close herself off from the world. But she is haunted by the fear that she will eventually become like the monsters she hunts and without someone to pull her back from these thoughts, it becomes a large part of who she is and affects how she navigates the world. Kai is an easy character to take a liking to. Gregarious and charming, Kai is the more efficient investigator. While Maggie is willing to spill a little blood in order to get answers, Kai tapers this instinct, showing her that reaching for her trusted Böker may not always be the best way to handle a situation. Their friendship is slow coming, but every small step forward feels like Maggie is pulled further out from the cage she has built for herself. It is through Kai’s eyes that Maggie slowly comes to realize that she can be more than the killer she was trained to be.
Roanhorse’s debut is easily my favorite book of year. Trial of Lightning captivates with its exhilarating action scenes, pulls you in with its multifaceted characters, and guts you with its epic ending. I cannot wait for more.