Book Babble || Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Published 2018 by Saga Press
285 pages
ISBN: 978-1-5344-1350-4

This is San Francisco Public Library’s On The Same Page book for January/February. One of my unofficial reading goals for this year is to read every OTSP book for 2019.

Synopsis

via Goodreads
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine. Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World.

Rating
★★★★☆

Thoughts

It’s taken me a while since reading this book to formulate my thoughts about it. On one hand, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the slow world-building, the character development, and the majority of Roanhorse’s writing style, occasionally the story read a little bit too YAish for me. I loved the emergence of the magic system and how Roanhorse draws lines between tradition and mythology. It’s beautifully done.

One of my favorite things is how realistic Maggie is as a character. Roanhorse inserts you inside Maggie’s mind and her thoughts, emotions, and actions are all things that match what she’s been through. I don’t want to give too much away, but I do want to give Roanhorse major props for showcasing the aftermath of subtle emotional abuse and survivor guilt. Maggie goes through an incredibly traumatic event when she’s sixteen and that’s how her powers awaken. It’s at the moment of her “rebirth”, that she encounters exactly the wrong type of person whose main desire is the mold her into something that they want her to be. Her growth throughout the novel is slow, but it’s a realistic type of slow and one that I can appreciate.

My main hangup with this novel was the pacing of the plot. This is the first book in a series, so of course, I don’t expect for everything to be nicely tied up. With that being said, I felt as if the speed of the first half of the novel was perfect, while the second half was far too rushed and missed out on far too many opportunities to further develop the characters and the world. There were events that occurred during the first half that I felt sure would be further explored in the second but alas, they just fell to the wayside. I actually wouldn’t have minded for the end of this book to be the beginning of the second in the series if it meant that things could have been more flushed out.

All in all, I do plan on reading the next book in this series. I’m now emotionally invested in Maggie, and the medicine man Kai, along with several of the other characters. I’m also going to be on the lookout for more fantasy by Native American authors (especially women!).

I Would Recommend This To…

  • people who want to transition from young adult to adult fiction
  • people interested in Native American culture and tradition
  • fans of urban fantasy
  • fans of post-apocalyptic fantasy
  • people who enjoy Neil Gaiman’s”American Gods” and/or “Anansi Boys”
What culture’s mythology and traditions do you admire the most and love seeing in works of fantasy? Personally, I love seeing Chinese, Egyptian, and Native American mythologies in works of fantasy as written by authors from that background.

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Book Babble || She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore
Published 2018, Greywolf Press
294 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55597-817-4

Synopsis:

In the West African village of Lai, red-haired Gbessa is cursed at birth and exiled on suspicion of being a witch. Bitten by a viper and left for dead, she nevertheless survives. On a plantation in Virginia, June Dey hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. And in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Norman Aragon, the child of white British colonizer and a Maroon slave, can fade from sight at will, just as his mother could.
Gbessa, misunderstood by her own people, finds a new life with a group of African American settlers in the colony of Monrovia. When she meets June Dey and Norman Aragon, it isn’t long before they realize that they are all cursed – or perhaps, uniquely gifted, but only Gbessa can salvage the tense relationship between the settlers and the indigenous tribes. The all-seeing spirit of the wind weaves together their extraordinary stories. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.”
In her transcendent debt, Wayetu Moore illuminates the tumultuous roots of Liberia, a country whose history is inextricably bound to the United States. A spectacular blend of history and magical realism, She Would Be King is a novel of profound depts from a major new author.

Rating:
★★★★☆

Thoughts:

One of my favorite things about this book was that it reminded me of a spiritual mixed with “survival music” (essentially songs that helped those enslaved and those living through Jim Crow survive and continue to move forward). Moore’s writing style was so smooth and flowy that she makes magical realism feel as if it’s a part of everyday life and history seem as if it’s the fairytale.

The layers to this story were absolutely mesmerizing as it was told from the perspective of a wind spirit watching over the three main characters who each have different, yet similar, experiences with colonization and slavery. I thought it was a fantastic way to grapple with how widespread and connected the ideas of colonization and slavery are/were. The story travels from Africa, to America, to Jamaica and back to Africa showcasing each character’s experience and journey.

I was fascinated with the portion that covered Liberia since I hardly know anything about Liberia outside of it being set up by the American Colonization Society so that free blacks could have a better chance at life. It was fascinating reading about the ‘society women’ in Monrovia and how much of their livestyle and the way in which they carried themselves were similar to how Southern woman carried themselves. It was also interesting realizing that the free blacks who helped the ACS colonize Liberia were also colonizers by extension; that the land had one belonged to other tribes/people and was being taken from them by people who both looked like them and didn’t look like them. It was just an emotional trip.

Who Should Read This?

  • fans of magical realism
  • people looking to read historical fiction about Liberia
  • people who want to read magical realism but are unsure if they’d like it or not

What do you think of magical realism and what’s your favorite book from the genre? Also, if you’ve read this before let me know what you thought!

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Book Babble |Black Faces, White Spaces

(If you read my Nonfiction November post you already know that Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimaging the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney was on my TBR list under the wander/wonder portion of the themed challenges.)

Thoughts:

18640643Finney, in six brilliantly written chapters, examines why African Americans are so underrepresented in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism and the relationship that African Americans have with the environment vs white Americans.

She draws upon; collective memories of slavery and Jim Crow, the timing of the creation and passing of the Wilderness Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, how African Americans are often personified as being animals, and how hard it is for African Americans to see images of themselves engaging with outdoor recreation that goes beyond sports.

One of my favorite portions of this book, and the one that resonated with me the most, is when Finney goes into detail about how more often than not, in flyers or brochures that market outdoor activities African Americans are either not present, pictured terrified of an experience, or working while whites are pictured happily having fun in leisurely recreational activities. It’s something that I’ve actually noticed a lot during my own hikes and travels and it’s nice to see that I wasn’t going crazy or making a big deal out of nothing.

I absolutely loved this book and I loved every second of reading it. Finney’s writing style is incredibly academic and there were a few moments where I did have to pause and actually think about what it was that I just read; which is fantastic.

Let me know if you’ve read this book before, what your thoughts are on nature and the great outdoors, or what some of your biases are concerning outdoor recreation!

Read This Book If:

  • You are a PoC and curious about either other’s aversion to nature or your own.
  • Curious about the role that race plays in environmentalism.
  • Looking to diversify your environmental studies reading selection

Book Information:

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimaging the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors | by Carolyn Finney | Published by The University of North Carolina Press, 2014 |138 pages (173 counting bibliography + index) | ISBN: 9781469614489

Purchase from: Book Depository (affiliate link) or University of North Carolina Press

Author Information

Carolyn Finney, PH.D (black effin’ excellence right thurr), is a writer, performer, and cultural geographer. She’s a professor of Geography at the University of Kentucky and serves on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board. Black Faces, White Spaces is her first book.

Book Babble: The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion was a legit cover grab for me. I mean, look at it! It just looks so creepy, but in that “ooooo this is gonna be good” way.

It’s a super short book, 112 pages, and follows a woman named Danielle who’s looking into the sudden suicide of her best friend. Her search takes her to a Utopian squatter town in Iowa named Freedom where a spirit in the form a red-eyed three antlered deer has been summoned to serve as a judge and executioner in the town. However, the deer is beginning to turn on its summoners and it’s up to Danielle and her new friends to figure out how to save the town and themselves.

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion was an insanely captivating mixture of fantasy and horror with an amazing element of commentary on police states and anarchism. I enjoyed Killjoy’s writing and found the majority of it to be well-paced and engaging. There were a few parts that I wish had been explored a bit more – such as how the summoning of the deer worked and how “magic” was discovered, but I’m hoping that since this is part of a series the magic system (or systems) will be explored in the next novella.

I would recommend this to people who want to read fantasy with a diverse cast of characters (PoC, queer, and trans), are interested in horror novels, and who are looking for a quick read that covers a lot ground in a realistic way.

If you’ve read this book, let me know what you thought about it! And if you haven’t, what are some of your favorite fantasy/horror novellas, books, or writers?

Hope you have a wonderful day & read a wonderful book!

Rae

Find “The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion” at a library near you | Purchase from Book Depository (I receive a 5% commission if you do!)

Book Babble: Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone has been all over my life. Patrons have been constantly checking it out, I’ve been constantly processing it for holds, and it’s been all over my YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter feeds since it’s release. At first, I wasn’t going to read it because I have hipster tendencies and tend to avoid reading things that end up being repeatedly shoved in my face and because I usually don’t enjoy YA fantasy novels.

Buuuuuut, I do occasionally feel like I have to read things by black authors, especially black women authors who are writing fantasy. You know, support the people and all that ish. Aaaaaand, the synopsis didn’t sound too bad, aaaaaaand, I’ve heard decently good things about it.

So, did I love it?

Not exactly.

I liked it. I could definitely see a younger me being absolutely in love with this. If this book had came out when I was in elementary or middle school I would have been all over it, but alas, it fell into too many of the YA tropes for me.

The main character, Zélie, is your typical “Chosen One”. She fucks up, gets in trouble, is insanely beautiful along with being a talented fighter, oh, and has a tragic backstory. Zélie, and her older brother, along with a runaway princess named Amari, embark on a quest to bring back magic via some magical artifacts and a celestial event and then aim to bring down the ruthless king (who happens to Amari’s father). To add more to the mix, the ruthless king has tasked Amari’s older brother, Inan to halt their quest, kill Zélie, and destroy the artifacts. Inan has to make some decisions, figure out who he is and who he wants to be, etc. – it’s almost like everyone in this novel was going through two forms of puberty and it was driving me crazy.

However, Adeyemi is a fantastic writer. Which is probably the main reason as to why I managed to finish the book. The story is told through Zélie, Amari, and Inan’s POV and each one is so drastically different that it works out excellently and makes for a very smooth blend. The world-building was on point, the plot was on point, and just the general subtle changes in the characters was on point.  Everything was on point, but as stated previously, it just didn’t appeal to me as an adult reader.

I would definitely recommend this book to fantasy lovers, black kids who thought Harry Potter was semi-wack, and people who just want to read fantasy from the African/African-American perspective.

Have you read Children of Blood and Bone yet? Or are you like me and avoiding it for as long as possible due to all the hype surrounding it? What did you think of it if you did read it? And who are some of your favorite PoC fantasy writers?

Hope you have a wonderful day & read a wonderful book!

Rae

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The “Old West” Trilogy by Beverly Jenkins

Thoughts On the Series As A Whole

First off, I loved the entire series. I never thought that I would seriously sit down and read a romance book and not scoff at every other word, much less an entire series. The Old West trilogy by Beverly Jenkins has caused me to completely look at romance novels in an entirely new light. The development of the stories, characters, and the general flow of the series was absolutely lovely.

The Old West Trilogy follows a family of motivated and headstrong black women in the late 19th century and showcases their struggles with being both black and women, along with their ~struggles~ with the men who they find As each book follows a different member of the Carmichael family in a different area of America the issues being showcased slightly change.

One of my absolute favorite things about the series were the covers. I thought it was so amazing to see black people happily in love (or lust) on the covers of a genre that is so dominated by white bodies and faces. It was amazing.

Thoughts on the Individual Novels

Forbidden (Old West, #1)In the first novel in the series, Forbidden, Eddy Carmichael, dreams of opening her own kitchen/restaurant in California but ends up stranded in Nevada where she meets businessman and real estate, mogul. Rhine Fontaine. Rhine has been passing as a white man in order to make his fortune but his attraction to Eddy causes him to reconsider passing. The book addresses topics such as white-passing, marital, business, and real estate laws, and what types of communities African-Americans formed after the Emancipation.

Breathless (Old West, #2)

The second novel, Breathless, follows Portia Carmichael, one of Eddy’s nieces as she fights to prove that she’s just as intelligent as any man, doesn’t need a man and that she’s completely capable of managing her uncle’s hotel. Temptation comes in the form of a man named Kent Randolph who’s a black rancher and occasionally reffered to as a “cat-house king”. The novel explores themes of racism toward Native America’s, further struggles of being black in the West (both on the side of men and woman), and woman’s suffrage rights. It wasn’t my favorite in the series, but I found it interesting enough to move me on to the third and final book.

Tempest (Old West, #3)

The last novel, Tempest, follows Regan Carmichael, (sister to Portia and Eddy’s other niece), as she follows her dream of becoming a mail-order bride. She travels to the Wyoming Territory to become the wife of the widower, Dr. Colton Lee, who is looking for a strong female figure to take care of his daughter. Regan however, might be a tad bit too strong of a female figure and Colton has his doubts. However, those are soon overridden and Colton starts to feel his heart melting for Regan. The novel explores themes of propriety, gender roles, and life in the territories. It even briefly touches on the treatment of Chinese-Americans and immigrants. This book definitely had the most “sexy time” out of the trilogy and was my favorite in the series (not for the sexy time, but just because Regan is such a dope ass female character!)

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So, there you have it! Those are my thoughts on The Old West trilogy as a whole by Beverly Jenkins and on the individual novels. Let me know if you have read these, and also, let me know what some of your favorite romance novels are! Especially let me know if they’re written by a PoC!!

Hope you have a wonderful day & read a wonderful book,

Rae