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Literature / Trail of Lightning

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Everything you've done, your past, it's all just a story you tell yourself. Some of it is true, but some of it is lies.

"But I had forgotten that the Diné had already suffered their apocalypse over a century before. This wasn’t our end. This was our rebirth."
Maggie Hoskie

Trail of Lightning is the first novel in The Sixth World series, a post-apocalyptic Urban Fantasy by Rebecca Roanhorse.

During the 21st century, the world is devastated by the Flood, a world flood of supernatural origins, which devastates the world and causes the collapse and disintegration of civilization and society. Following the disaster, the indigenous reserve of the Dinetahs becomes an independent state, declaring independence from the United States of America. Further, some Navajo populations have developed magical and supernatural powers, the Clan Powers, based on their ancestral tribes.

In Arizona, witches, monsters and demons have spread after the return of magic, and are fought and opposed by special monster and witch hunters.

Maggie Hoskie, a bounty hunter of monsters with a traumatizing past, is flanked by Kai Arviso, a nephew to a friend of hers, and is committed to fighting a new and mysterious race of monsters.

The second book, Storm of Locusts, was published April 23, 2019.

Trail of Lightning contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Maggie Hoskie, the protagonist, is a monster hunter.
  • Affectionate Nickname: A few.
    • Neizghání calls Maggie Chíníbaá, which means "girl who comes out fighting", after her traumatic sixteenth birthday.
    • Rissa dubs Kai as Rabbit after he takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.
  • After the End: The Earth was devastated by a large-scale world war, the Energy Wars, for he control of global energy resources. This was followed by a set of ecological and environmental catastrophes, including global warming-induced rising seas and melting ice, that devastated large parts of the world. The event is remembered as the Big Water or the Great Water or the Great Tide, and caused what was left of civilization to collapse and crumble.
  • Alcohol Is Gasoline: Given the breakdown in global trade, gasoline is unavailable for everyone in Dinétah. Maggie's truck is modified to use straight alcohol instead.
  • All Myths Are True: In this universe, the gods, myths and legends of Navajo mythology are a real thing and really exist, and returned to the world, after the Great Flood.
  • Apocalypse How: Planetary / Societal Collapse. The Big Water literally flooded chunks of the planet destroying most industry and infrastructure. The survivors in Dinétah hunt for food and scavenge for materials, but are at least stable. The United States of America and North America in general are left worse off than most other areas.
  • Badass Native: The main character, Maggie Hoskie. She's a trained bounty hunter plus has Clan Powers that help give her an edge in combat.
  • Big Good: Neizghání is known throughout Dinétah as the monsterhunter who people pray to when they are in need.
  • Broken Pedestal: Neizghání may be the legendary monsterhunter to the Diné, but to Maggie he's the mentor that abandoned her without explanation. The pedastal cracks further when she suspects he is behind the arrival of the tsé naayéé'.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Coyote offers Maggie a set of directional hoops that she uses in the finale for an entirely different purpose than was originally stated.
  • The Chessmaster: In the finale Ma'ii/Coyote claims to have manipulated events for the last decade to force Maggie into her current position.
  • Cool Car: Maggie drives a 1972 Chevrolet 4x4 pickup truck with a cherry-red paint job and lots of chrome. She admits that replacement parts are very difficult to get.
  • Cool Old Guy: Tah is no family to Maggie and old enough to be her father, but he's a valuable contact and sets her up with her partner Kai.
  • Crapsack World: Civilization has been shaken and broken up for a long time, the world has fallen into darkness and barbarism, the eastern United States of America are threatened by a theocracy of religious fanatics and monstrous creatures, and legendary creatures of Navajo folklore attack and devour human beings.
  • The Cult: A mysterious religious sect that venerates the White Locust, a creature of Navajo mythology, like a god or a supreme deity.
  • Dangerous 16th Birthday: Maggie came into her clan powers on her sixteenth birthday. Her home was under attack by cannibals at the time.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Maggie Hoskie was orphaned in the Big Water and raised by her grandmother until her sixteenth birthday, when they were attacked by cannibals. Maggie's powers awakened and she brutally murdered the attackers, but not in time to save her grandmother.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Maggie's shotgun is loaded with corn pollen and obsidian shot, both of which are sacred to the Diné and have exaggerated effects on supernatural creatures. Maggie points out they work pretty good on people too.
  • Differently Powered Individual: All Dine have clan associations from their mother's and father's sides. Some people can manifest powers based on their clans, including Maggie and Kai.
  • Demon Slaying: The Monster Hunters of the Navajo Republic.
  • Divided States of America: The United States of America collapsed and balkanized: the Navajo Reserves of Arizona have become an independent Navajo Republic, while Utah is governed by a Mormon theocracy and the Republic of New Denver controls Colorado.
  • Fallen States of America: After the Energy Wars, global ecological and environmental catastrophes and the resource crises, the United States of America collapsed, declined and balkanized, fragmenting into a melting pot of struggling in conflict with each other.
  • Forced Prize Fight: Maggie enters Mosi's tournament to win a magic fire drill that is at the root of the tsé naayéé'.
  • Good-Guy Bar: Grace's All-American due to the heavily-armed proprietors blocking influence from corrupt law enforcement.
  • The Great Flood: A Native American version of this trope, caused both by the transition from the "old world" (the Fifth World) to the new world (the Sixth World) in Navajo cosmology and by global warming and sea level rise. Either way, the result was a global deluge that submerged a large part of the emerged lands.
  • The Great Offscreen War: The Energy Wars were a struggle among world power for control of the few resources and energy fields left in the world, which are on the verge of exhaustion and hyper-exploitation.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Two major examples.
    • Neizghání is identified by his signature lightning sword, though he has access to combat magic as well.
    • Maggie prefers to use her seven-inch Böker hunting knife which distinguishes her from other humans who only use guns. In the finale she claims Neizghání's lightning sword for herself.
  • Heroic BSoD: Maggie is coming out of one at the start of the book, having been abandoned by Neizghání and spending the last nine months just sitting in her trailer.
  • History Repeats: Ma'ii says he has seen five worlds come and go, each time ending in a flood. The Big Water is only the latest.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Maggie and her grandmother were attacked by a group of cannibals. Such is not uncommon among the desperate in the years since the Big Water.
  • Impossible Task: Ma'ii requests that Maggie capture the sacred wind Nílchi'i for him and in return offers help with her work, claiming it should be an easy task for a monsterhunter like her. It's really an excuse to give her the directional hoops that she can use to cage Neizghání according to Ma'ii's manipulations.
  • Kick the Dog: Longarm is a corrupt cop with a chip on his shoulder, but it's only when he attempts to execute Kai that he becomes a valid target.
  • Kill It with Fire: The easiest way to destroy bullet-resistant tsé naayéé', used when Maggie and co are facing armies instead of individuals.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The final villain gets this treatment in the middle of his explanatory speech. Given that he is a Diyin Dine'é it's not likely to stick.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Maggie engages one in the first chapter before she goes hunting: shotgun with special shot, handgun, hunting knife, and two flavors of throwing knife.
  • The Magic Comes Back: After the Big Water, the Energy Wars and the collapse of civilization came a return of magic to North America, especially the return of the ancient myths and legends of the Native Americans.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Neizghání is an immortal, but Maggie is a human. When he takes her as a romantic partner she is still a teenager, but he leaves her in her mid-twenties.
    Ma'ii: Forget Neizghání. He is a deeply selfish creature. He does not love you. Cannot. You are but a moment's fancy, a distraction, a curiousity of which he has now tired.
  • Mercy Kill: After Maggie defeats her first tsé naayéé' she has to confront its victim Addy. When Addy learns that she too will become tsé naayéé' she allows Maggie to execute her to spare her family.
  • Mythpunk: A fusion of Navajo mythology and Navajo folklore with a futuristic and high tech setting, but also post-apocalyptic, Mad Max style.
  • '90s Anti-Hero: Because Maggie's clan powers are all combat-related and her youth was spent in combat training, fighting is almost literally the only thing she knows. Every problem she encounters in the book is solved with lethal violence.
  • Pro Bono Barter: Maddie's pay for the Lukachukai job is a sackful of jewelry and a woven blanket. Then again, since there is no central authority for printing cash all trade is barter and favors.
  • Redshirt Army: Hastiin and the Thirsty Boys are a local militia called in as foot soldiers for the finale.
  • Resigned to the Call: At the beginning of the book Maddie is depressed. Her whole family is dead, her only prospects are in lethal combat, and her mentor Neizghání has abandoned her. When a kid on a motorbike tracks Maddie down to rescue his sister and refuses to leave, Maddie takes the job to pay the bills.
  • The Social Expert: Kai easily makes friends and gets information everywhere he goes. Turns out he's using a clan power to make his targets more pliable.
  • Strong Girl, Smart Guy: Badass Maddie quickly pairs up with medicine-man-in-training Kai and depends on both his healing powers and his knowledge base through the book.
  • The Theocracy: The Mormon Republic of Utah.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Maggie's clan powers are dormant until her sixteenth birthday when she is attacked by cannibals in her home. She wins.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Ma'ii is an immortal and does have crucial information and tools. He will only dispense them when he believes it to be in his own best interest.
  • True Sight: Kai's medicine allows Maggie to see through the illusions of the Shalimar trading post including Mosí's natural form and the clan backgrounds of the humans present.
  • The Virus: People attacked by the tsé naayéé' rise again as tsé naayéé'.
  • The Wall Around the World: There's a large wall around the nation of Dinétah and in the rest of Arizona that separates the Dinétah Nation from the rest of the world. The inhabitants of the Dinétah nation completely ignore the world beyond the wall.
  • Was Once a Man: All of the tsé naayéé' are converted humans. The armies seen in the finale arose from wiping out entire settlements.
  • You Are the Translated Foreign Word: The book constantly translates words familiar to Navajo speakers to standard English.