tl;dr: Trail of Lightning tries hard to stand out in the Urban Fantasy genre, but it fails at being original or interesting.
As the title suggests, I am reviewing the 2019 Hugh Award Novel nominees and the Trail of Lightning is my first victim book.
I had high expectations from this book when I first started reading it due to its nomination. But I was dismayed immediately when I figured out that it belonged to Urban Fantasy genre. Oh Well!. It is not just that I am burnt out on this genre, it is that Trail of Lightning does not bring much originality to this tired and beaten genre. (On a side note, it feels like authors/publishers are milking everything they can out of UF and YA fiction.)
The main character – Maggie Hoskins – is a walking cliche. Young woman, orphaned, self-hating, misunderstood, disliked by everyone except a handsome man, magic powers, will do stuff no one else can. See the amount of tropes there? My initial impressions of Maggie were on poor on reading the first chapter and it was downhill from there. She makes stupid decisions, has plenty of plot armour, goes out of her way to annoy people around her and then whines when she is not wanted. We have see this before and it was fun the first 2-3 times (Jane YellowRock, Mercy Thompson etc etc). Actually, now that I think about it, Maggie is a thin facsimile of Jane YellowRock but less fun.
The other characters are the same as you would expect. The handsome partner, the wise old ‘grandfather’ figure, the mysterious mentor, cartoon villain etc.
The world building is the one bright spot in the book.
I really liked the context of the world (climate change/post-apocalytpic) as well as the Native American setting. Rebecca Roanhorse is very convincing in her explanation of the lore, the people, customs etc. And it is refreshing to see a non-white female lead.
But, the problem is that while a lot of details are new, the overall feeling is not so much since we have seen glimpses of this in other urban fantasy settings.
I found Trail of Lightning to be slow and the pacing to be inconsistent. There were many sections where my attention wandered and I had to either take a break or force myself to come back to the book.
The plot, too, is predictable and boring. Think typical UF plot and you got it.
Here is an example of how uneven the pacing and plot are. I read the book yesterday and I can only remember 2-3 scenes from the book – the first chapter, the arena fight and the end.
I think this book might have been better received had it come before Jane YellowRock or Mercy Thompson or any of the women lead UF book came out. Now, it just feels like a retread of those characters.
Overall, this book is a decent read if you are into UF or just want some formulaic stuff to take your mind of everyday life. Otherwise, avoid it and go for something better (the afore mentioned series for example)
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