This week, let’s talk about two very different fun books.
Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning is a highly-anticipated debut: a fantasy published by a major press that features Native American mythology written by a Native writer. It carries a weight of expectations for representation that most works by white authors never bear, and as a white and Irish reader, I have no idea what kind of reception it will receive among a Native readership. (If it’s anything like the reception that good works of queer SFF written by queer authors gets among a queer readership, it’ll be equal parts fraught and ecstatic.)
The world outside Dinétah has largely collapsed in a great flood. Dinétah remains, surrounded by preternatural walls that encompass the area that was formerly known as the Navajo reservation while the USA still existed as a country. The land is home, now, to both gods and monsters as well as humans, and members of the Diné have discovered themselves to have powers associated with their lineages in this new world.
Maggie Hoskie is a monster hunter. Trained by Naayééʼ Neizghání, a part-divine monsterslayer, she’s been isolated since her mentor abandoned her. When she’s recruited to kill a monster that’s abducted a small child, though, she finds that the monster is more terrifying than she knew, and that there’s more to this monster than she believed. Joining forces with unconventional medicine man Kai Arviso, she finds herself on a head-on confrontation with her past.
This is a fast, fun read. Structurally, it’s not as smooth as I was hoping, and tonally it leans more towards urban fantasy than the other subgenres, but it is deeply enjoyable. I look forward to seeing where Roanhorse goes in the sequel.
Dreamstorm is the fourth novel, chronologically speaking, in M.C.A. Hogarth’s Dreamhealers sequence, a quiet and domestic set of stories about the lives and troubles of Jahir Seni Galare (a telepath from a race of, essentially, long-lived human-descended Space Elves) and Vasiht’h (also a telepath, a centauroid from one of several races of human-descended Space Furries). Jahir and Vasiht’h are therapists and platonic life-partners as well as telepaths, and they’re telepathically linked by a “mindline”—which appears to be a mental bond between soulmates.
When Dreamstorm opens, Jahir and Vasiht’h have been living on Starbase Veta for five years. They have a successful therapeutic practice and a domestic routine that verges on the idyllic, but Vasiht’h worries that he’s not doing enough right—that he’s maybe not where he wants to be—and Jahir has semi-accidentally accrued enough continuing education credits to qualify as a licensed healer-assist, a career path he had previously decided against. He’s no longer certain, though, and he’s torn by his sense of duty towards his isolationist home planet, with its plethora of health issues and lack of qualified medical personnel with modern equipment and training.
When Jahir and Vasiht’h return to the planet where they went to university for a friend’s wedding, they find they can no longer entirely ignore their little uncertainties. At least, Vasiht’h can’t—and he finds Jahir’s careful silence on the matter a touch disconcerting. But it turns out the next exams for the healer-assist license are taking place on a famous resort planet. What could be the harm in Vasiht’h having a holiday while Jahir gets his qualification?
Then things go wrong on the planet’s surface. A hurricane, where there shouldn’t be one. Vasiht’h and Jahir are separated and each with their own difficulties.
The aftermath follows them home. They have to work through the new effects on themselves and each other as people, and keep learning to trust that they can be good enough for themselves, and for each other. This is a measured and very domestic novel about relationships and insecurities, and the work that goes in to making sure that the latter doesn’t cause damage to the former. It’s about people supporting each other, and it has a bedrock of kindness that’s damn reassuring and refreshing to read. Dreamstorm isn’t a story of dramatic action, but sometimes quieter stories of smaller significance are important, too.
What are you guys reading?
Liz Bourke is a cranky queer person who reads books. She holds a Ph.D in Classics from Trinity College, Dublin. Her first book, Sleeping With Monsters, a collection of reviews and criticism, was published in 2017 by Aqueduct Press and is nominated for a Hugo Award in the category of Best Related Work. Find her at her blog, where she’s been known to talk about even more books thanks to her Patreon supporters. Or find her at her Twitter. She supports the work of the Irish Refugee Council and the Abortion Rights Campaign.