Trail of Lightning was one of the novels nominated for a hugo this year. I probably would have run into it at some point, but since I was attending, I short-tracked it onto my reading list. Here’s my thoughts.
Dinétah is the homeland of the Navajo tribe. Trail of Lightning is set in this mystical place in the near post-apocalyptic future. Climate change has ravaged the world and led to the energy wars followed by global floods. The end result is that Dinétah is on its own.
Not only that, with the flood, a new era of the world has begun. In this new age, the gods of the Navajo walk the earth once more, and the clan powers in the bloodlines of the Navajo are awakening. Monsters also walk the land.
Maggy is one such Navajo. She lives in Dinétah with her grandmother, her parents vanished in the floods. When a witch creates a group of monsters that murder her grandmother in front of her, her powers awaken and she kills all of them. It also draws the interest of the Navajo god Neizghání, who takes her under his wing.
The story starts years later, when Neizghání has left Maggy to her own devices, telling her that her growing bloodlust is a sign of a taint on her soul.
Maggy is damaged. The trauma from her youth is an open wound, and a fickle Navajo god mentoring her hasn’t helped. She sees herself as a killer. A monster who just happens to mostly kill monsters. She feels people fear her and nobody wants to ever be her friend.
Kai is the disgraced nephew of one of Maggy’s few friends. His clan powers have manifested recently and he is now a strong medicine man. When — at the onset of Trail of Lightning — Maggy needs help defeating a plague of monsters, Kai offers his help. Where Maggy is damaged, violent, and hard to befriend, Kai is cheerful, pacifist, and friends with everyone.
Trail of Lightning mixes Supernatural with Mad Max and sprinkles it with Navajo myth. I loved the first few seasons of Supernatural. I loved Mad Max Fury Road as well. In short, this is a very good book.
The book is a real page turner, with each step keeping you wanting to see what happens and slowly ramping up the conflict until the unexpected climax. The interplay between Kai and Maggy keeps the book intimate, while the flamboyant supernatural characters keep each part of the story fresh.
In fact, Trail of Lightning was my favorite book of this year’s Hugo nominations. Mary Robinette Kowal’s ‘the Calculating Stars’ won, of course, but it didn’t grab me as much Trail of Lightning did. I guess I’m just a sucker for violent stories set in post-apocalyptic settings.
You should really read this book. Unless you hate books or fantasy of course.