The Big Water has come, and two billion people have died, but the Diné (Navajo Nation) have survived. Barely. Chronic drought, the collapse of central authority, and the fallout of the deadly Energy Wars have made life on the reservation precarious – and then there are the monsters.
In Trail of Lightning, author Rebecca Roanhorse has written an outstanding debut novel that sits firmly within the tradition with which fantasy readers are familiar, while expanding it to encompass worlds and characters we have nearly never seen reflected in print. Trail of Lightning imagines a post-apocalyptic near-future in which climate change has brought an end to the Fifth World and ushered in the Sixth, a world in which Diné gods now roam the earth, and not even the massive and magical wall built to surround and protect the Dinétah (the former Navajo reservation) can defend its residents from the evil that has arisen within.
As in any good fantasy novel, that evil takes many forms: Monsters, witches, and the numerous ways in which humans can shatter each other, heart and bone. Maggie Hoskie is a monster hunter whose clan powers have awoken within her; they allow her to do her dangerous job but are painful to live with, and don’t afford Maggie any peace from the personal demons that can seem bigger than the creatures she has to kill. Mentored and inexplicably abandoned by the monster slayer god Neizghání, raised by a grandmother who was killed before her eyes, and reluctantly partnered with the medicine-man-in-training Kai Arviso, Maggie wields both magic and a Glock, but comes to understand that the war she fights is both larger and more intimate than she had ever guessed.
Roanhorse’s writing is action-packed and other-worldly, and Trail of Lightning is a worthy first novel in what promises to be an excellent trilogy. The second installment, Storm of Locusts is expected out in April 2019.