RogerBW's Blog

Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse 02 June 2019

2018 modern fantasy. After the Big Water, with two-thirds of North America flooded, magic has returned to the world. Maggie Hoskie is a hunter of monsters among the Diné (Navajo); she's also a very broken person.

So on one level this is about being a badass monster fighter, but it's also about depression and abuse, and surviving them both, and the slow process of recognising that you're hurt and starting to do something about it.

This is one of those books where the reader will often be ahead of the protagonist; this is by design, because she's coming to terms with recognising what happened to her as abuse, but it's also frustrating. It doesn't help matters that this is a grotty post-apocalypse where even finding some batteries is a multi-day quest; the whole world feels tired as well as gritty.

Part of the problem, though, is that it turns out that all the men in Maggie's life (she only knows one woman) are manipulating her, for one reason or another, so that the hard choices she makes through the book are robbed of meaning. That's not even condemned; it's just what all men do, apparently, even the good ones. (And there's even a scene where she gets put into a Sexy Monster Hunter costume version of her usual practical gear, for reasons that are never really explained.)

I couldn't help drawing comparisons with Kate Daniels, who has her share and more of problems but at least can recognise when people are taking advantage of her and decide not to hang around with those people any more. If Maggie had been honestly antisocial, or even honestly depressed, that could have worked; when it turns out that everything about her has been set up by someone else, she loses interest for me.

Eh. I like the representation; I like the alien culture; I don't mind the untranslated foreign words. But there's nobody here who is even slightly a good person, just ones who are slightly less terrible. I never really found myself caring about what happened; sure, lots of people are dying because of the zombie horde, but we don't get to meet them, they're just set-dressing. And this book is only the first of a trilogy, so you don't even get a complete story here. Followed by Storm of Locusts.

(This work was nominated for the 2019 Hugo Awards.)

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