Trail of Lighting (Book Review)
by Rebecca Roanhorse
Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction/Fantasy
5 / 5 Stars
I usually try to give my reviews some semblance of professionalism, but all I can say about this one is: OMFG.
I read Trail of Lightning well into the night because I couldn’t put it down. I honestly have no critiques about this novel at all.
The beginning is very strong and harrowing. It sets the tone and lets you know what to expect from the novel going forward. And the end scene did not go the way I was assuming it would, which was a good indicator for the rest of the story.
In terms of characters, I love a tortured heroine, and Maggie’s backstory was tragic and disturbing enough to make her demeanour and misanthropy understandable. I loved her strength and her vulnerability.
Kai wasn’t as fleshed out, but this worked with the story. I loved how he was the “healer” of the pair, as historically in this type of fiction that would be the woman’s job while the guy was the “monsterslayer”. He was also great as both a contrast to her (in abilities and personality) and a compliment. He also seemed like a genuinely good guy and I enjoyed their sexual tension.
The side characters were also awesome. Cliff and Rissa were a fun addition, Coyote was fantastic (just as I pictured he would be based on studies of Indigenous stories in university), and Neizghani was intriguing in how he takes up so much of Maggie’s story but is not present for most of it.
The setting is utterly amazing and such a refreshing take on the genre. I thoroughly enjoyed how we didn’t get any long-winded exposition into what the Big Water is, but are left to infer it on our own. I loved how all of the story takes place on Native land and is based on Native cultures. It's such different mythology than the European and British variants I grew up with, so I was glad I had a basic background from university (though we studied the works of Canadian First Nations).*
The plot was engaging and the story moved at a great pace. Scratch that, the pacing was perfect. The characters took time to sleep, to eat, and the action scenes were fun without being too long they got boring. Roanhorse writes with an engaging, fun style that is both colloquial and eloquent. She doesn't often broach Indigenous rights issues in the novel, but there was one moment that stood out:
"... But I had forgotten that the Dine had already suffered their apocalypse over a century before. This wasn't our end. This was our rebirth."
Overall, Trial of Lightning will please die-hard post-apocalyptic fans and those who just love a great action story focusing on characters of cultures we don’t see enough.
I loved it and am going to get the sequel Storm of Locusts.
*I used different terms for Indigenous peoples in my review because I know there are different preferences, so this is my, potentially misguided, attempt to be inclusive.