Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhouse

Title: Storm of Locusts
Author: Rebecca Roanhouse
Series: The Sixth World, #2
Pages: 320
Publisher: Saga Press
Release Date: April 23rd 2019

      “It’s been four weeks since the bloody showdown at Black Mesa, and Maggie Hoskie, Diné monster hunter, is trying to make the best of things. Only her latest bounty hunt has gone sideways, she’s lost her only friend, Kai Arviso, and she’s somehow found herself responsible for a girl with a strange clan power.
      Then the Goodacre twins show up at Maggie’s door with the news that Kai and the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, have fallen in with a mysterious cult, led by a figure out of Navajo legend called the White Locust. The Goodacres are convinced that Kai’s a true believer, but Maggie suspects there’s more to Kai’s new faith than meets the eye. She vows to track down the White Locust, then rescue Kai and make things right between them.
      Her search leads her beyond the Walls of Dinétah and straight into the horrors of the Big Water world outside. With the aid of a motley collection of allies, Maggie must battle body harvesters, newborn casino gods and, ultimately, the White Locust himself. But the cult leader is nothing like she suspected, and Kai might not need rescuing after all. When the full scope of the White Locust’s plans are revealed, Maggie’s burgeoning trust in her friends, and herself, will be pushed to the breaking point, and not everyone will survive.

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“I draw my Böker and her eyes go from hate to fear. I’ve decided to let her live, but she doesn’t know that. For a moment I savor the terror I elicit, the control I have over her. It’s a dark emotion, something I’m not proud of, but it’s there nonetheless.”

Rebecca Roanhouse’s Storm of Locusts, sequel to Trial of Lightning, is a tension-filled thrill ride from start to finish. Maggie has slowly been picking up the pieces of her life. But her decision to pull the trigger on one important person to her life and bury another still occupies a great deal of space in her head. She’s been content waiting for Kai’s return, wanting to give him space, but also a little afraid of their reunion. When the Goodacre Twins show up on her doorstep with news that Kai and their little brother Caleb have gone missing, Maggie doesn’t hesitate to join them. But a new foe has risen in Dinétah, the White Locust is spreading the word of another impending apocalypse, and he has taken Kai and Caleb. Maggie and her crew journey across Dinétah and outside the Wall in search of this White Locust. When they discover what the White Locust has in store, it becomes a race to stop him before everything they love comes crumbling down.

Trail of Lightning introduced readers to Maggie Hoskie, whose clan powers made her an unstoppable force. A monsterslayer, destined to be defined by bloodshed. Faced with an impossible decision, Maggie was forced to say goodbye to the one person who was able to get past her walls. Kai helped Maggie learn how to trust and rely on someone else. In Storm of Locusts our protagonist is pushed even further out of her comfort zone. New characters like the young Ben are thrust into her path. This young teen girl has her own traumas she’s working through and Maggie becomes the one person she can count on. For Maggie this is a completely terrifying and unprecedented situation. She’s not used to being someone’s rock. She’s still learning what it means to not be a killer and now she has this girl on her hands who very much believes her purpose is to kill. Ben is a reflection of Maggie’s past self and Maggie isn’t sure she is capable of not being a killer, let alone helping someone else see there’s another way.

As much as I missed Kai’s presence for the majority of this one, I loved seeing Maggie grow and forge new and significant relationships with other people. With Ben she gains someone she can protect and teach. With Rissa Goodacre she gains a peer and a friend. Their relationship is strained from the beginning as Rissa isn’t convinced of Kai’s innocence, but with each obstacle put in their path, they begin to rely on one another more and more. There are a lot earth-shattering action scenes in this one, but the tête-à-tête between Maggie and Rissa near the end might be the most satisfying scene in this series so far. I also love that each person the crew comes across on their journey feels significant in their own way and there’s a subtle humor in so many of these scenes that made me chuckle but never distracted from the tension-filled story.

Roanhouse is masterful in the execution of both build-up and payoff. Maggie’s separation from Kai is like a lump in the throat. His absence is palpable in every scene and Roanhouse kept me turning page after page, desperate for their reunion. I particularly loved the tension leading up to Maggie’s meeting with the White Locust. From the unnatural and unrelenting swarms chasing Maggie and her crew, to his trademark crucifixions, the antagonist is a terrifying villain even before we meet him. I do wish we had a chance to meet some of his followers because to me there is nothing scarier than a charismatic and manipulative leader able to persuade a group of people into feeling grateful to give up full control of themselves.

Storm of Locusts keeps readers on their toes with a new villain, new characters, and action scenes that are as harrowing and crisp as they were in the first.

★★★★★

(5/5)

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhouse

Title: Trail of Lightning
Author: Rebecca Roanhouse
Series: The Sixth World, #1
Pages: 287
Publisher: Saga Press
Release Date: June 26th 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—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.”

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“And with my need, Honágháahnii comes. Like a streak of wildfire through my veins, churning through my muscles, turning me into something more than I am without it. My eyesight sharpens. My lungs expand. And I fly, feet light, barely touching the ground.”

Rebecca Roanhouse’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. Roanhouse’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.

Roanhouse’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.

5/5

★★★★★

End of Days by Susan Ee

End of Days by Susan Ee

Title: End of Days
Author: Susan Ee
Series: Penryn & the End of Days, #3

Penryn and Raffe have escaped from the malicious angel Uriel and the host of angels that have invaded our world. Now with Paige in tow, Penryn searches desperately for someone to undo the horrors inflicted upon her sister while Raffe seeks to finally be reunited with the wings that were stolen from him. Penryn is sure she can rely on Raffe, but as the battle between man and angel intensifies, each faces impossible choices, choices that may turn ally into enemy and separate them for good.

“All this time, I’ve been thinking I’m the strong one, that I’m making the hard choices and carrying the weight of responsibility for my family on my shoulders. But I realize now that the toughest choices, the ones that will haunt us for the rest of our lives, are the ones that my mom is still sheltering me from.”

End of Days, Susan Ee’s final installment in her Penryn & the End of Days series, sets up the final battle between angels and humans. Throughout the series, Penryn has been pulled in different directions, but her loyalty to her family remains constant. Now more than ever it becomes imperative that she reconnect with the doctor that first experimented on her sister or risk watching Paige slowly waste away. As difficult as it is, Penryn finally begins to recognize her sister’s capabilities and even though Paige may be irrevocably altered, she still remains the strong little girl she was in the World Before. Penryn also gains new insight into her mother’s madness and as strange as she can be, Penryn’s mother manages to be both unnervingly blunt and wise in her own way. She is the unsung hero of the series and I found myself liking her more in more with each book.

Penryn and Raffe found common ground in Angelfall and the bound between them could not be severed by their separation in World After. In End of Days, their relationship takes on a different challenge. The differences between their two peoples that were once easy to overlook in light of their mutual respect for one another are harder to ignore. Penryn is a fierce heroine, who never turns her back on those she cares about, not even for Raffe. Both are faced with hard decisions, from embracing leadership roles that put them on opposing sides to accepting mistakes they’ve made in the past. Each has their own path to follow and even though they care about one another, neither is blind to their own peoples’ needs. One thing I did find missing from this last installment was a definitive answer to the real role the Messenger plays in the relationship between God and angels, as this was both debated and was a key factor in the main storyline.

End of Days is just as fast-paced as the previous books and introduces new settings and horrors that bring a deeper complexity to many of its characters. As someone who isn’t really into angel books, this series was an amazing experience, with a unique twist on angelic beings, a terrifying post-apocalyptic world and a main character who is a force to be reckoned with.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

World After by Susan Ee

World After by Susan Ee

Title: World After
Author: Susan Ee
Series: Penryn & the End of Days, #2

Penryn Young risked everything to save her little sister, Paige, from the angels that kidnapped her, but the child she got back bears little resemblance to the one that was lost. Paige, along with other children, have been altered, changed into something to be feared. When her sister runs away, convinced she is a monster, Penryn must find a way to see past the damage and accept this new Paige before she is lost forever. And somewhere in the chaos is Raffe who still believes Penryn is dead and is determined more than ever to take back the wings that were stolen from him.

“A part of me still expects her to cringe in disgust at the sight of the corpse. There is disgust there. But there’s also a flash of longing. Hunger.”

In the sequel to Susan Ee’s Angelfall, Penryn deals with the aftermath of the physical experiments done on her sister. More feral than child, Paige has become a different person and much of World After deals with Penryn’s mixed feeling toward what her sister has become. Paige, like so many other things in this new world, has become a casualty in a larger war in which humans are inconsequential. The angels are faster, stronger, and have their own political motivations that have nothing to do with humanity. For angels, humans are either prey, trophies, or something to be used for their own gain.

Penryn has taken every step believing her responsibility in this post-apocalyptic world lies with her mother and sister. In this second installment, Penryn’s actions propel her forward into a different role, one she may not be ready to accept but one she may have to. When Penryn speaks, people listen, when they lose hope, they look to her, and when there is a call to action, people follow. There is something to be said of Penryn’s mother as well. In a world gone mad, this woman who lacks mentally stability somehow never looses sight of her daughters. Her will to survive is at times frightening, but also incredibly impressive.

Although I really enjoyed World After, I missed the banter between Penryn and Raffe, who are separated for the majority of the novel. Raffe’s sword connects Penryn to him through its memories and it’s really interesting to have a little more insight into who this archangel is. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Susan Ee wraps up this fast-paced and heart-pounding series.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★