From the blood-stained fighting pit under the Shalimar to the memory-haunted Black Mesa, it’s time for Maggie to face her past and fight for her future. But first she must decide what sort of future she wants…
It’s the final week of the Wyrd and Wonder read-along of Rebecca Roanhorse’s genre-challenging Trail of Lightning. Spoilers are inevitable as we discuss the final act.
To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Coyote is a Trickster and Kai has been keeping secrets. What was your take on the final act?
I’ll be honest: while I expected Ma’ii to have ulterior motives, I wasn’t expecting his trickery to be quite so insidious. It was clearly a terrible idea for Maggie to volunteer for the pit fight – and I wasn’t in the least surprised by who she found herself facing – but I thought that was the extent of the Trickster’s plan. Ma’ii clearly had an axe to grind with Neizghání and forcing him to publicly kill his mentee seemed like the sort of barbed plot Coyote would relish. And although I’d decided early on that Neizghání was a complete dick, the fight scene – and his transparently proprietary and abusive attitudes – added a whole extra level of weapons-grade creep.
Still, I wasn’t prepared for the revelations at the Black Mesa. And I didn’t respond well to them. We’ll get to Kai in a minute, but I have almost zero tolerance for motivational fridging and OH GOSH LOOK Maggie’s ENTIRE LIFE has been manufactured by a demigod callously killing people she cares about to craft her into a god-killing machine.
The Sixth World lost me right there, I’m afraid. Although the underlying idea that the only way to kill a warrior god is to have that god train you to be a god-killer is a storyline I’d be interested in seeing explored again in future.
Maggie has gone on a hell of a journey since we first met her. Are you happy with where she has ended up? How do you feel the various (predominantly men’s) attempts to influence her? Do you think she/Kai have a chance at a future together / do you want them to work it out?
Maggie’s arc is one of my favourite aspects of Trail of Lightning. I wasn’t happy with her early assertion that you can’t recover from trauma and I have been relieved to see the rest of the book challenging it. I’ve enjoyed seeing her being forced to open up to the idea of friends and allies – and I’ve appreciated the little moments that show that healing is a process, not something that happens overnight.
One of my favourite scenes was her refusal to give Kai an inch on her second visit to Tse Bonito: he could have ten minutes before she unleashed herself on the town to find Tah herself. She’s an uncompromising hard-ass – even while she’s learning she doesn’t have to be alone – and a fierce friend.
So while I started out quite ambivalent, Maggie won me over completely. All things being equal, I could see myself spending a lot more time in her company (sadly, all things are not equal).
Arguably the core of this book is Maggie shaking off the influence of the men in her life – and if I think about it long enough, maybe I’ll come round to seeing it that way – but aiiii it felt like a narrative of men trying to assert their influence (even Tah, although at least he’s genuinely caring rather than insidiously abusive), which left me more exhausted than delighted.
As for Kai, I called his sekrit power on the first trip to Tse Bonito, but I had never managed to answer the question of why he wanted to be Maggie’s partner. Now I know, I have some minor sympathy for his choices – although seriously Kai, several thousand years of mythology validate that the best way to avoid a prophecy is to stop trying to prevent it. I also feel justified in being mistrustful of him from the start; and I look back askance at my assertion that he hadn’t exerted his power on Maggie. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t; maybe he just tried to seduce her to win her over… but I still don’t particularly like or trust Kai Arviso. See my epic side-eye at the thought of them getting together (because yes, I think that’s where this narrative is going in future books, and I am not on board for it).
Time for closing thoughts! What was your favourite / least favourite aspect of Trail of Lightning? Will you be reading the sequel(s)?
I’m still intrigued by the world-building of The Sixth World. I still sort of want to know more about Dinétah, and find out more about the lands (or seas) beyond its walls. I still want to know if it’s really possible to capture the breath of life in Canyon de Chelly (I’m still tingling at the idea that it might be). I love the Mad Max aesthetic of gritty desert trailer town and cobbled-together tech – and I adored Grace’s family and compound as an unexpected refuge.
But I wasn’t thrilled by the actual story, and in spite of my delight in a hard-nosed shotgun-wielding no-holds-barred ass-kicking heroine I’m not walking away from it with much interest in picking up the sequel. I came for the urban fantasy thrill ride; I got something much more challenging in ways I wasn’t remotely prepared for and I didn’t particularly enjoy.
That said, I’m glad I’ve read it and I will be recommending Trail of Lightning to others. I can not enjoy a book whilst still think it’s worth you taking a look at it. This is brilliantly imagined, well-written stuff; my reservations are quite specific and I’ve got no bones with Rebecca Roanhorse’s craft. Besides, I know I’m being particularly judgemental at the moment because I’m overtired and grumpy – so I’m pushing back hard against things that might only raise my eyebrow on a better day.
Round the fire
I’ve been reading Trail of Lightning as part of the Wyrd and Wonder Read-along. Here’s the round-up of all our thoughts:
- Lisa at Dear Geek Place | Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four
- Nikki at The Bibliophibian | Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four
- Ash at Bookish Muggle | Review
- Annemieke at A Dance With Books | Review
- And here at There’s Always Room for One More | Week One | Week Two | Week Three | …and this post is Week Four
Already read it? Feel free to join in in the comments!