Maggie is a Badass
Trail of Lightning
by Rebecca Roanhorse
Everything you’ve done, your past, it’s all just a story you tell yourself. Some of it is true, but some of it is lies.―
Rebecca Roanhorse, Trail of Lightning
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.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse follows protagonist Maggie Hoskie as she lives and battles in the “sixth world.” The Sixth World is the age that has come after climate change and the big floods that have taken most of the land. Maggie, or Mags, as she is called, is a survivor. “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.” She was the victim of great violence as a teenager, thus shuttling her on a path of fighting monsters.
Because of the flooding, referred to as “big water” several changes have occurred on the lands. Large walls have enveloped the southwest. These walls, 50 feet tall, were magically created to protect the Navajo Nation of Dinétah. They keep the floods and the people at bay. Also, some individuals have “clan powers” or powers that represent the clan they are from. In Mag’s case, it is the power of fighting, and she has the skills of the warrior inside her. This allows her to eke out a small existence as a bounty hunter and monster killer in exchange for small amounts of tradeable goods or money.
We were safe. Safe from the outside world, at least. But sometimes the worst monsters are the ones within.―
Rebecca Roanhorse, Trail of Lightning
Like many other main protagonists with incredible gifts, Mags is wracked by guilt. She has a difficult time defining what she is. Is she a monster, or is she a person who has done awful things to survive. This is the underlining theme of the story. Are we defined by what we do, or can we rise above our pasts? The story is made even more enjoyable by some well written supporting characters. Firstly, Grandpa Tah. He is an old medicine man that has helped and saved Mags in the past when no one else would. He sees her as an adopted daughter and treats her like family. Then there is Tah’s grandson, Kai. Kai starts as a charismatic character, but further develops and changes as we learn more about him and his motivations.
I loved this book hard, from start to finish. I have a soft spot for character-driven stories like this, and Roanhorse did a great job of balancing character arcs and development with action. The characters developed deep and complicated relationships with each other that allow the reader to latch on and become engrossed in the story. Additionally, the fact that it is written with rich Native American stories and culture is rare in fantasy, and I am so glad that this book exists.
“Sometimes, the ones we call our heroes are the greatest monsters of all.”
This book had some detractors, some small problems that I encountered that took me out of the story a few times. The pacing is good and generally even. However, when the pacing dips, it dips hard—some of the character interactions were a little confusing, especially at the end. I would have liked the relationship between Kai and Mags to progress a bit slower, especially with how reticent Mags was in trusting anyone. But that might be a personal preference.
I loved this book. I cannot wait to read the next one. Roanhorse is creating such a rich world in “the sixth world” series that I cannot wait to see what else happens to these characters.
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Where to find it?
I purchased a audio copy of this and read a physical copy from the library.
About the Author
Rebecca Roanhorse is a Nebula and Hugo Award-winning speculative fiction writer and the recipient of the 2018 Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her short fiction has also been a finalist for the Sturgeon, Locus and World Fantasy awards. Her novel Trail of Lightning was selected as an Amazon, B&N, Library Journal, and NRP Best Books of 2018, among others, and is a 2019 Nebula Finalist.
Her short fiction can be found in Apex Magazine, New Suns, and various other anthologies. Her non-fiction can be found in Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, and How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation (Macmillan).