Happy Friday, geekfriends and nerdpals! We made it; good job all around. Today I’m reviewing Trail of Lightning by newly minted Hugo Award-winner Rebecca Roanhorse, and talking about V.E. Schwab’s Tolkien lecture, a forthcoming Moroccan-inspired fantasy, fantasy and food, robots of history, and much more.
This newsletter is sponsored by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
This is a week or so old at this point, but if you haven’t yet read V.E. Schwab’s Tolkien lecture about “doors” into reading, it’s great — not least because it starts off with her admitting she’s never read Tolkien! It’s a long-ish read, but one well worth your time, especially if you find yourself talking about and recommending SF/F on the regular.
When don’t we need more book recs about witches, I ask you? Here are 25 witchy reads from the YA side of the aisle.
Fantasy talk for your earholes: author Somaiya Daud did an audio-interview about her forthcoming debut novel, Mirage, which is high on my anticipated list! She talks about Moroccan history, the cultural importance of poetry, the interplay between science and religion, feminism, and a lot more in under 17 minutes!
Got a hankering for Kingkiller Chronicles read-alikes? We’ve got a list for that! Priya takes a lot of different angles here, so whatever your favorite part of Rothfuss’s epic is, she’s probably got a rec for you.
Nom nom nom: I love this round-up of readers’ thoughts on what fantasy foods like klah, roast beast, metheglin, subtraction stew, and more might taste like. (I now desperately need to make klah.)
Related! Here are nine food-focused fantasy books, to make you even hungrier.
If you want to spice up your weekend in one of the most morbid ways possible, here’s the list of necromancer romances that you didn’t know you needed.
And for my fellow lovers of a good “deep dive,” here’s a look at the history of robots in both science and fiction!
Are you ready to hear about a book that I keep re-classifying and re-comp’ing every time I talk about it? Here we go!
Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World) by Rebecca Roanhorse
Trigger warning: harm to children
Rebecca Roanhorse picked up two awards earlier this week: a Hugo for Best Short Story, and related but not-a-Hugo John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. On Tuesday we talked about the winning story, “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience (TM),” and now it’s time to talk about her debut novel Trail of Lightning. On Get Booked this week Amanda and I compared it to Mad Max and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I stand by both. Roanhorse has brought Navajo legends to life in a post-apocalyptic world with a monster-slaying, kick-ass heroine, and it is one of my favorite debuts — and favorite post-apocalyptic fantasies — of the year.
Maggie Hoskie is our gruff, broken, outcast main character. A brutal attack during her adolescence awoke dark powers in her, and she was apprenticed to an immortal monsterslayer just long enough to fall in love with him and then be abandoned by him. Quite understandably she’s been holed up in her trailer in a depressive funk, but then she’s summoned by a family to track down a small girl kidnapped by a supernatural creature of insane strength. This mission sends her headlong into a tangled web of evil-doing, betrayal, and violence — but it also might hold a way forward for her own mangled life. Along for the ride is the very suave Kai Arviso, a medicine man with his own secrets and powers, and the Trickster himself, Coyote.
Now let’s talk about the setting, because that’s as intricate and original as the plot! Huge coastal floods have reconfigured the geography of the United States, and the Navajo have physically and magically walled off their land from the rest of the country. The story takes our characters around Dinétah, and we get to meet several amazing supporting characters as well as see the geography unfold. I’ve been calling it a post-apocalypse, but it also has the feel of a Western as well as an urban fantasy; frontier cities, small villages, isolated dive bars, abandoned mines, we get them all.
I raced through this book, and already feel like I need to reread it. While it’s the first in a series, the main plot wraps up nicely, with just enough of a tease to get me psyched for the next book. If you like your fantasy dark, uncanny, and inclusive, get this book ASAP.
And that’s a wrap! You can find all of the books recommended in this newsletter on a handy Goodreads shelf. If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.
Your fellow booknerd,