Next up on the Hugo nominee list is Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning. This is basically one of those urban fantasies with a monster-hunting badass woman who has a problematic boyfriend; Roanhorse seems to be aware of the cliche, at one point having her character self-consciously dress up in a midriff-baring halter top and heavy black eyeliner for dramatic purposes.
But they’re better than the average for the genre largely by virtue of the setting. As it starts out, it’s clearly post-apocalyptic, but it seems like one where magic is still (as in our-world urban fantasies) a bit underground and not entirely believed in by everyone; as the book goes on, it becomes clear that this is actually a post-apocalyptic high fantasy setting, where gods and miracles (out of Navajo traditions; the book is set in Dinétah, a Navajo nation post-apocalyptically resurgent) are everyday occurrences. So that’s cool.
There were a couple of things that bugged me, though. The main one is that the heroine is doing a thing I think of as a YA staple, narrating about how she’s inherently evil/corrupted/a monster, based on some past event that’s initially revealed to the viewer only partially, but where even at that, it’s immediately obvious to the reader that there’s an alternate interpretation of events that puts the heroine in a better light. It’s an annoying trope, but at least it isn’t foregrounded too heavily.
The other problem I had is that… y’know, okay, relationships are complicated, and even moreso when they have mystical elements to them and all, but even at that, I just didn’t understand some of the motivations that drove characters’ actions—I understood what they wanted, but not why they wanted it.
All that aside, it’s still an enjoyable read and a very solid first novel; I’ll be looking forward to the sequel (which, now that I look, was just released; okay, cool, that’ll help me to not forget this book entirely by the time I get to the next volume). Recommended, and highly recommended to people who like urban fantasy more than I do.