Review: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (The Sixth World #1)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Saga Press on June 26, 2018

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn.

  

Well-written, powerful, and original, Rebecca Roanhorse’s TRAIL OF LIGHTNING is one of the most important and exciting SFF books of 2018.

Maggie Hoskie is a Monsterslayer, a woman whose clan powers make her a supernaturally skilled killer and an outcast among her own people. Once the apprentice of Neizghání, the immortal child of two Diné gods, Maggie’s skills are unparalleled. So when disturbingly fast and hard-to-kill monsters begin plaguing Dinétah, Maggie’s called in to take them out. But when it becomes clear that there’s more going on than meets the eye, Maggie will have to defy all her instincts and rely on someone else for a change.

Every single character in TRAIL OF LIGHTNING feels like a real person, with charm, secrets, and contradictions aplenty. Sometimes they make poor decisions, especially Maggie. I’d even go as far as to characterize her as an unreliable narrator, at least when it comes to her self-conception. Maggie’s opinion of herself is warped by the traumatic incident that triggered her clan powers…and it’s compounded a thousand-fold by the emotional abuse she suffered under Neizghání. Watching Maggie grapple with the harsh realities of her devotion to her former mentor is hard to watch at times, but it’s so important. I haven’t rooted for a character like this in forever!

The supporting cast is also incredible, especially Maggie’s new friend Kai Arviso, a pretty boy medicine man in training with enough skeletons to fill a walk-in closet. Much like Maggie, I was suspicious of him at first but I was charmed by him in spite of myself. Clive and Clarissa Goodacre, tough as nails siblings with a penchant for danger – and a great party – also have a special place in my heart. But as far as the secondary cast goes, the real scene stealer is Ma’ii, often called Coyote. You may think that you know Coyote from other stories, but trust me, you’ve never seen him like this. He’s absolutely terrifying.

Roanhorse deftly introduces the history of the Sixth World and the culture and magic of Dinétah without overwhelming readers with detail, which is impressive when you consider just how rich and layered the world of TRAIL OF LIGHTNING is. Of all the fascinating world building that Roanhorse presents to her readers, my favourite is the concept of clan powers, which are triggered by traumatic events and are determined by a person’s clan heritage. While some of the Diné see clan powers as blessings, most consider Maggie’s violent powers a curse – Maggie among them.

The legacy of trauma is at the core of this story, which is unsurprising given the impact of intergenerational trauma on indigenous populations. Roanhorse doesn’t shy away from this darkness but instead embraces it, illustrating how events that could be the end of someone can actually lead to their rebirth. From the world building to the characters to its messages, TRAIL OF LIGHTNING is unlike any other urban fantasy novel I’ve ever read. The emotional resonance of this story is incredibly powerful, and the first steps of Maggie’s journey to healing shook me to my core. Her story is going to stay with me for a long time.

I, for one, cannot wait to see where she takes Maggie’s story in the sequel. Rebecca Roanhorse is an incredibly talented storyteller who brings much-needed originality and emotional weight to urban fantasy, and I whole-heartedly recommend TRAIL OF LIGHTNING to everyone.

Do you plan to read TRAIL OF LIGHTNING? What’s your favourite emotional SFF story? Let me know in the comments!

26 thoughts on “Review: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

  1. Awesome review! I think you have me sold on this one. I love the sound of it and especially the clan magic angle. And you have me really curious about Coyote now! I like the sound of the climate apocalypse too. Can’t wait to read this now. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Greg! YES! That’s the goal of all my five-star reviews, after all. 😉 The magic system and world building is incredible and you’re going to love Roanhorse’s version of Coyote. I honestly still have chills when I think about him…

  2. This is my next book, I hope to start it by the end of the week. I’ve been excited for months! I’m so glad to read your glowing review, because it makes me want to finish my current read as fast as I can:-)

  3. It’s wonderful when characters are so well-written that they truly feel real! And you have me intrigued about all the characters you mentioned. And world-building that’s interesting without being overwhelming is a major plus. I was not planning on reading this, tbh, but you may have convinced me to give it a try!

  4. I have not yet read this, but gosh it sounds A-MA-ZING. I like how you described how every character seemed like a real person, and how that resonated with you. The worldbuilding sounds incredible as well!

    1. It IS AMAZING, Verushka! For real, I haven’t read a book like this in ages. Maggie in particular holds a place in my heart, but all of Roanhorse’s characters feel like real people. And the world building! Be still, my heart. 💜

  5. Ohh, this sounds like a book I’d really enjoy! I just added it to my TBR, so thanks for sharing! I love when the secondary characters are well-written and play larger roles in the story. Gah, now I have itchy fingers for this! Thanks for sharing! <3

    L @ Do You Dog-ear?

  6. Great review. I’m seeing literally everyone talking about this one so I’m getting itchy fingers to go buy the damn thing but I’m meant to be on a spending ban (of sorts) while I try and read some of my own books. Why you got to go read a good book and make me want to buy it when it’s so pricey over here? I’m debating whether I can wait until September and make it a treat book for myself when I’m in NYC (cos you know I’m buying books when I go on holiday). All of the characters sound so interesting and the concept is so original. I seriously want to read it because it sounds spectactular, I’m not gonna be able to wait, am I?

    1. Thank you, Becky! I finished read this and then immediately poured all my thoughts and feelings about it into this review, which I think tells you how much I loved it. I definitely don’t think you should wait, because we need to talk about how awesome it is! There were a few plot elements that I saw coming but I didn’t care about that at all because I was so swept up by the characters and the world, you know?

      I’m on a spending ban too (for books anyway…don’t even talk to me about online clothes shopping) until I read more of my backlist TBR. Remember those 12 books I vowed to read this year for my reading my own damn books challenge? So far I’ve read 2. 🙈

      1. I totally know what you mean. Sometimes a book can have things which would be flaws in another read (like being predictable) but because a book ok is so good in itself you don’t even notice those little things cos you’re enjoying it too much.

        Don’t talk to me about saving money I am failing epically. If I’m not buying books I’m buying clothes and my excuse of needing a summer wardrobe for the UK heatwave can only get me so far. I might sneak this purchase in somehow. I just need to think of a good reason why I deserve it.

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