Years ago, during a stressful time at work, I started reading Robert Jordan’s novels in “Wheel of Time.” Increasingly turgid, I retained little but couldn’t seem to stop. I just needed to escape. My son-in-law Tim took me in hand and plied me with livelier swords and sorcery, steam punk, and Terry Pratchett. My reading life improved and has stayed that way.
Enter Rebecca Roanhorse. My daughter Isabel found “Trail of Lightning.” Wow! Here is a post-apocalyptic near future set on the Navajo Reservation-a place that has changed much less than the west coast, which is now under water. Monsters have awakened, as well as supernatural human powers. Heavy drinking, heavily armed, and heavy-hearted Maggie is the heroine—a killing machine but also a complicated woman.
Roanhorse has an insider/outsider perspective on the Rez. She is married to a Navajo, but comes from a complex multi-cultural background that lets her create a variety of characters who move between different worlds. One believable detail—even covered in gore Maggie is worried her water rationing won’t allow for a full shower.
“Storm of Locusts” is the next in the series. It is actually stronger than the first, with more nuances in the characters and conflict that is clearer and less horror-driven. There are some great details as Maggie and her crew head for the remnants of Route 66—“Bad men called it I-40.” And the fate of the Park Service is one I believe: detached from a failed federal government they have become sacred land protectors who no one will harm. And when the Glen Canyon Dam leaks…well, it’s a great climax.
The first book in an earlier series, “Black Sun”, might be the best of all. Set in an Aztecan universe that isn’t confined by any resemblance to reality it roams freely between city states on a sea that links and divides them. There is the corrupt priest hierarchy, the heavy drinking etc. woman sea captain, the godlike prophet, criminal minds, and more. The multiple storylines work well. Best of all, it stars very large very magical crows.
So if you are looking from some speculative fiction to absorb, maybe watch the Robert Jordan series but read Rebecca Roanhorse.