Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

Hodder, 2019, 317 p.

 Storm of Locusts cover

This is the second of Roanhorse’s Sixth World sequence featuring the adventures of Maggie Hoskie, Monsterslayer. I reviewed the first, Trail of Lightning, here. We are again in Navajo country, Dinétah, and straight away Maggie is asked by Hastiin, of the Thirsty Boys, (drought still afflicts the land after the environmental catastrophe known as the Big Water,) to help with something big and bad over near Lake Asááyi. On the way she is introduced to Ben, who is not a young man, but a teenage girl, Hastiin’s niece, whom Hastiin asks Maggie to look after if anything should happen to him, which naturally it soon does. The something big and bad turns out to be a woman with wings who can sing others to submission and is an adherent of the White Locust. Hastiin is killed, Ben blames herself for attracting the winged woman’s attention and tries to kill her in revenge. In the aftermath Maggie has to accept reponsibility for Ben, who we find, like Maggie, has clan powers, in her case to track people. The winged woman – despite her singing abilities – is then forgotten by the narrative.

Rissa and Clive Goodacre of the All-American bar encountered in the previous book come knocking asking for Maggie’s help to rescue their brother Caleb, taken apparently by Maggie’s former ally, Kai, whom she betrayed in the course of defeating then burying her mentor, Neizghání, whose sword of lightning is now in Maggie’s possession. A video of the abduction is in the bar’s archive, and despite not being very revealing does show Kai mouthing, “I love you. Don’t follow,” presumably to Maggie. Though Maggie is insistent she no longer wants to kill anyone and any pursuit means she might have to, follow is of course what she does, accompanied by Ben, Clive, Rissa, and a shapeshifter called Mósí, escaping pursuit by a swarm of locusts which can devour everything in sight and assemble themselves into a human shape.

They find Caleb at Dinétah’s southern entry gate, complete with a set of wings and pinned by stakes to the wall that surrounds Dinétah. (For some reason all the Goodacres have red hair. Odd, it isn’t a dominant gene.) The trail leads out into the Badlands beyond Dinétah. Within hours our adventurers are captured and taken to Knifetown, overseen by a man called Bishop who is a trader of all kinds but especially of breedable women. He deems Maggie and Rissa too dangerous though. They are to be harvested for their organs. Somewhat too easily they talk themselves out of captivity by persuading Bishop’s pilot, Aaron, to help them. This is good for plot reasons as he is the brother of Gideon, the White Locust. Mósí engineers that they stop at an abandoned casino named Twin Arrows, where Maggie becomes reacquainted with Ma’ii (Coyote) whom she had killed in the previous book, “The problem with immortals is that they don’t stay dead,” and engages in a game of chance with the god Nohoilpi. There is a diversion to a place called Wahheap, where Maggie learns from Tó how to control Neizghání’s sword, then on to Amangiri and the final confrontation with the White Locust, who holds a grudge against Dinétah and plans to destroy it.

Maggie is an engaging narrator. Despite all the mayhem, violence and killing, not all that much by way of plot, and the lack of filling in of background detail of this supposed future the book is well written. Roanhorse shows understanding of the human condition and a flair for character depiction. The blending of Navajo myth and beliefs with a Fantasy plot works well as a story but the control over natural phenomena by those with powers is always a stretch for me.

The last chapter is a bit of a tease as it does not relate at all to the main thrust of Storm of Locusts but instead promises more in the Sixth World.

Pedant’s corner:- “When the adrenaline spike that drive them fades” (drives then,) “at apace” (at a pace.) “Something about Rissa seem to repel the light” (seems,) “she slides off mattress” (the mattress,) “there’s no arcing patterns” (there are no arcing patterns,) a closed quotation mark at the end of a paragraph when the next paragraph started off with the same speaker (x 1,) “‘I’ve never drank alcohol before’” (never drunk.) “He shakes he head.” (his head.) “‘How it is my fault?’” (How is it my fault?,) “as we race for the Lupton” (for Lupton,) “like she’s relived” (relieved,) “Caleb’s rushes on” (Caleb rushes on,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech. “His freezes” (He freezes.) “Feedings us to the sporting dogs.” (Feeding us to,) hanger (hangar, used correctly later,) “what looks to be modified Heckler assault rifles” (what look to be,) the sheathe (the sheath,) “I loved the way it shined” (shone,) “the pressure of fingers on my neck disappear” (disappears.) “His stumbles back” (He stumbles,) “sounds like I great idea” (like a great idea,) “righted the plan” (righted the plane.) “The use it against a god?” (To use it against a god?) Nohoipli (elsewhere always Nohoilpi,) “making them they sparkle like diamonds” (no ‘they’ needed,) “rarer in this world that you think” (than you think,) “rolling through by body” (through my body,) “‘if you haven’t notice’” (noticed.) “The docks creaks and moans” (the dock,) “I sheath the sword” (sheathe,) “There’s a an individual” (no ‘a’.) “Kai shoulders fall slightly” (Kai’s,) an unneeded end quote mark at the end of a normal piece of prose (x1.) “The spill of pebbles under my feet sound like” (the spill …sounds like,) “reaching up hands up” (only one ‘up’ required.) “The impossibly rare smell of sugar and cinnamon waft from the dish” (the … smell … wafts,) “I cry out at my fingers bend and crack” (as my fingers,) “and his eyes – whatever light they had before – snuffs out” (- whatever light they had before snuff out,) Diyin Dine’ e (elsewhere always Dine’ é,) “the handful that are left” (strictly; the handful that is left.) “Stepping out of from behind” (either ‘out of’ or ‘from’, not both,) “from having the relive the horrors” (having to relive,) “her face tight” (his face.) “As in on cue” (As if on cue,) “his breath coming is gasps,” (in gasps,) Dinetah (elsewhere always Dinétah.)

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