Book Review: Storm of Locusts, Rebecca Roanhorse

Book Review: Storm of Locusts, Rebecca Roanhorse

Storm of Locusts, Rebecca Roanhorse

Science Fiction: Storm of Locusts, Rebecca Roanhorse

It is not often that I anticipate a new book as eagerly as I awaited Storm of Locusts, and Rebecca Roanhorse does not disappoint. In this sequel to Trail of Lightning, Maggie (known to some as a “Monsterslayer” and to others as a “Godslayer”) returns to face a new enemy. (Spoilers ahead.)

Gideon is a cult leader. Raised in a white family, he is actually Diné (Navajo) and has received clan powers. His powers allow him to control people…and to control locusts. When one of Gideon’s followers kills a friend of Maggie’s, she winds up caring for her friend’s niece Ben. They then learn that Gideon has taken Kai (a character from the first book) and Maggie and Ben pursue them to rescue Kai.

Of course, things get more complicated as Maggie, Ben, and Rissa (a frenemy of Maggie’s) encounter beings from the spirit realm of the Diné, are forced to leave the protected lands of the Dinetah to follow Kai and Gideon, are tricked, and captured, and escape, and find unlikely allies along the way. Alliances and friendships are made, questions arise about Kai’s participation with Gideon, and Maggie discovers new powers and new truths about herself.

If you don’t count locusts, the body count is lower in this sequel, and a lot more time is spent on Maggie’s personal journey and relationships with her team. The fact that she has a “team” is itself a growth aspect for Maggie, and it takes her awhile to recognize that. However, even though she usually tries to avoid killing people now, Maggie remains the same kickass heroine we met in Trail of Lightning. This is a deeper, more thoughtful Maggie, one who is developing new talents, new friends, and new reserves that she will undoubtedly need in the next book of this dynamic series.

It has been a busy year for Rebecca Roanhorse. Winner of the John Campbell award, as well as a Hugo and a Nebula, she is up for more awards this year and I suspect that Storm of Locusts will in turn gather its own shelf of nominations and awards next year. She is taking Science Fiction into new directions, representing a neglected voice in the genre, and I am eager to see what else comes from this amazing writer.

Storm of Locusts, Rebecca Roanhorse

Book Review: Storm of Locusts, Rebecca Roanhorse

Book Review: Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse

Book Review: Trail of LightningRebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse

Fantasy: Trail of LightningRebecca Roanhorse

Southwest tribes are known for their traditional weaving skills. I have no idea whether Rebecca Roanhorse can whip out a rug or a blanket on a loom, but when it comes to weaving together Navajo folklore, dystopian sci fi, and kickass adventure, her creation belongs on any fantasy-lover’s shelf. Trail of Lightning has it all: a great story, great characters, a well-constructed and consistent world, and a heroine that can send any monster back home to mommy. If that’s best done by sending them in pieces, so be it.

 

Maggie has issues. Killing is not one of them. She is good at it. When monsters threaten the Dinetah–the land of the Navajo–she is fearless. When it comes to sorting out her relationships, though, the monsters are not quite so easily vanquished. Her mentor, an immortal hero from Navajo legend, abandoned her a year ago. Sorting out her life has taken the better part of that year, but now a child has been taken by a monster, a creature without a name, and Maggie’s services are required.

 

I love books that take risks, that go in unexpected directions, that feature complex characters and especially that feature strong women. Trail of Lightning does all of that. The easy, traditional fantasy approach would take awhile to say, “Maggie battled the monster and won, returning the uninjured child to her grateful mother.” Not here. Maggie feels bloodlust and violently, brutally, viciously kills and decapitates the creature. And not to get too detailed lest I require a trigger warning for my own review, there is no rescue and there is no delivery of an uninjured child to her grateful mother.

 

This begins a journey through the Dinetah where Maggie searches to find the source for this monster and others like it which start to attack Navajo settlements. She is assisted by a young healer who is more than he seems, an old medicine man, and a bartender who lives on the edge of the reservation. During her journey Maggie must face characters from Navajo legend and story including the trickster Coyote, and must face her own demons that often threaten to take hold of her life and twist it out of control.

 

Rebecca Roanhorse is a Native American author and lawyer. A graduate of Yale, she has already in her young career won a Nebula award and been nominated for the Hugo. Trail of Lightning is the first book in a projected series, with a sequel already scheduled for publication next February. In other words, Roanhorse is a terrific writer at the very beginning of a series that promises to get better. The perfect time to jump in!

 

The world envisioned for Trail of Lightning is a difficult and dark one. The United States is essentially gone, devastated by climate change and by the New Madrid fault splitting the nation and allowing the ocean to cover most of the interior. These physical changes also opened doors for ancient beings to resurface, and the old gods and devils, heroes and monsters, are once again participating in the lives of the “five fingered ones,” i.e. humans. Their release, though, has also awakened powers long latent in the Native people, powers which allow humans to compete more evenly with these ancient beings. Roanhorse is in many ways reinterpreting Navajo folklore for a new generation along the lines Rick Riordan has done with Greek, Roman, Norse, and Egyptian folklore–though the high gore and body count in Trail of Lightning should keep it off of the YA shelves at your local library.

 

Not a criticism, but it is fair to warn sensitive readers that if you are triggered by horror blood and gore, this is not the right book for you. If you like your fantasy with a touch of horror, if you enjoy seeing a different culture expressed in literature, if you enjoy a heroine who knows how to use a blade, Trail of Lightning delivers a rich tapestry to anyone who buys it.

 

Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse

Book Review: Trail of LightningRebecca Roanhorse