I was skeptical that I would like this book because it was characterized to me as Young Adult (YA) but I was still interested, especially when Trail of Lightning became one of the rare debut novels to be nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula award.
Trail of Lightning is an interesting combination of urban fantasy, dystopian fiction, romance and Native American mythology. And it has a female protagonist and an unusual, culturally diverse cast of characters.
The main character is Maggie (Magdalena) Hoskie, who lives in Dinétah (formerly a Navajo reservation) which has survived an apocalyptic event called the Big Water which basically killed off several billion people worldwide and reduced the populated United States to the area around what used to be the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah (or the Exalted Mormon Kingdom). In this new land, the gods and spirits of the Navajo have come to life and certain people also appear to be manifesting powers that are associated with their tribal lineage.
Of course our main character Maggie has powers (Super Speed and Ultra-Violence) that allows her to kill “monsters” that show up every now and again and prey upon the people. For this reason she is known as a monsterslayer. In fact, our introduction to the character in the very first chapter is Maggie being hired to find and rescue a little girl who has been abducted by one of these monsters. Maggie beheads the monster, and then because the girl has been infected, has to decapitate the girl as well. Clearly Maggie is "hardcore" but we also learn that she has had a VERY difficult early life and has a reputation for being “violent and antisocial” on the Rez. Later on in the story she meets Kai Arviso, an absolutely gorgeous guy who happens to be the grandson of her only friend, an ancient medicine man known as Tah. Kai and Maggie decide to go find the MacGuffin (an immortal whom they think has probably been creating monsters like the one Maggie had to kill earlier in the story) and along the way of tying to complete this task they find out more about themselves and establish a relationship.
Trail of Lightning has a very strong sense of place and both Kai and Maggie are very well-developed and interesting characters. The Native American element feels very authentic (there are lots of untranslated Navajo words used to describe various concepts and spirits). It’s also a very quick read (chapters are very short and the plot develops at a very fast clip). Another strong aspect of the book is the diversity of the characters. The main characters are Native Americans (of course) and the supporting characters include a musclebound gay guy, an interracial (African American and red-headed) set of twins and two(!) godlike or at least near-immortal individuals. But the book revolves around Maggie, who is deadly, damaged and delightful.
Overall, I am very glad that I read Trail of Lightning. There's definitely romantic tension between Kai and Maggie (all presented in first-person from Maggie's perspective) but I would not characterize the book as YA or even romance. I’ll almost certainly read the sequel Storm of Locusts (there's a huge cliffhanger at the end of Trail of Lightning) and the still untitled third book in what Rebecca Roanhorse is calling the Sixth World trilogy.
RATING: 4.5 STARS.
Title: Trail of Lightning.
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse.
Paperback: 287 pages.
Date Published: June 26, 2018.
Date Read: May 15, 2019.
GOODREADS RATING: ★★★★½☆ (4.5/5.0).
OVERALL GRADE: A (4.0/4.0).