I read the first book I Roanhorse’s The Sixth World series (Trail of Lightning) last year and was so into it! I loved the world and the characters and the magic and the Navajo mythology and it was a wild ride from start to finish. So, when I felt a reading slump coming on a few days ago, this sequel jumped off the shelf at me as the perfect antidote. Also, it conveniently happens to fit Prompt 9: Inspired by Folklore, for the Reading Women Challenge 2020!
“Strange that our isolation made the transition to a post Big Water world easier when before I’d only ever seen it as a punishment. But now I could see what a blessing it was.”
Storm of Locusts picks up the story about a month after the end of Trail of Lightening. Maggie knows Kai is alive, but he still hasn’t come to see her and Tah and they’re both sort of wallowing in the aftermath of destruction and loss. But when what seems like a normal bounty hunt goes badly, Maggie finds herself responsible for a young girl with a unique clan power. And then the Goodacre twins come find her because Kai and their younger brother, Caleb, have been kidnapped by the leader of a cult. Together the four set out to find and rescue Kai and Caleb from the cult leader, the White Locust. The search takes them outside the walls of Dinétah, where they encounter everything from body harvesters to mysterious (but helpful) old men and, eventually, the White Locust himself (who has some seriously intense clan powers and apocalyptic plans that they have to figure out how to stop).
Once again, this book delivers from page one with action and intensity and nonstop edge-of-your-seat pacing. While there was definitely a bit less gore in this one, the “heebie jeebie” factor was definitely increased (storms of locusts = horrifying!). I was pretty sure before, but can definitely confirm now, that I prefer reading about blood to reading about insects crawling everywhere. *shudder* Thankfully, there’s only a couple moments where the bug scenes get really bad. Anyways, outside of the insects, I thought the plot was really interesting in this one. The gods are still involved (heavily) as they were in the first, but the “big bad” is actually not one of them. In fact, some “lesser” Diyin Dine’é actually got involved to help Maggie on her quest to face the White Locust. I loved the way they acted like typical deities (this seems to cross all belief systems) in that their advice was cryptic and borderline nonsensical until the moment it was needed and then everything clicked. I don’t know why I love that so much, but it’s one of my favorite common aspects of human-god interaction. Related on this point, the way Maggie learns to wield Neizghání’s sword is super cool. And based on a bit of a cliffhanger (but not at all an intense one) at the end, I am definitely into seeing where that leads her next…
As far as characters and people, there is so much growth in this second installment, especially for Maggie, and I loved seeing that. The first book set up her dark and thorny person, and then started to break down some of the walls she put up. This book really allowed her to make big progress on that front. Seeing her open up and find “home” and trust with other people, like Rissa(!) and the new character Ben, the young girl she finds herself caring for, is just really heartwarming. And the way she’s able to (finally) admit the depth of her connection with Kai, and take the big leap of trust with him after everything they went through/were tested with in book one…I loved it. There’re three different types of relationships that really help Maggie find her own space, give her the courage to redefine who she is and choose her own fate (in this case, owning her clan power but not letting it define her anymore), and show her the meaning of [found] family. It was wonderfully satisfying to read.
Basically, this book was great fun and excitement. A worthy successor to the first and absolutely the escapist, fast-paced, thrilling ride I was looking for. Although there are a number of salient, important topics that are addressed (attention is, of course, brought to environmental apocalypse/justice/protections, pipeline incursions onto Native land, childhood and general trauma – leading here to development of clan powers, exploitation by those to who have resources against those who don’t, and a touch on the exclusionary aspects of tribal land and family) and shouldn’t be ignored, the overall vibe is that of adventure and the fantastic. Truly a celebration of Navajo beliefs, mythology, culture and people (and badass, powerful women)!