Book Review: Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 2 of The Sixth World
Publisher: Saga Press (April 23, 2019)
Length: 384 pages
I’ve been running around for the whole of last year telling anyone who would listen that Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse is bar one the best thing to happen to urban fantasy in years. To say I was excited to read the sequel is an understatement. And now that I’ve read it, I am pleased to report that the highly-anticipated Storm of Locusts, like its predecessor, was just as fun and action-packed, while still managing to feel new and breath fresh life into the genre.
Four weeks have passed since the events at Black Mesa that saw Maggie defeat a god and save Dinétah, but her actions have cost her greatly, including her friendship with Kai Arviso, the young medicine man with whom she had fallen in love. Back at home with a lightning sword she’s not quite sure how to use, Maggie tries to make the best out of her situation by once again taking on odd jobs. After all, following the Big Water, there’s always something monstrous that needs to be slain in the Sixth World. So when whispers of a Navajo legend called the White Locust reaches Maggie’s ears, she doesn’t think much of it at first, treating the investigation like any other as she heads out with a crew to look into the rumors. But what they find is much more troubling. Not only is the White Locust real, he has amassed himself a number of followers, creating a dangerous cult. And to his faithful, he grants them delicate diaphanous wings of metal that look disturbingly insectoid, just like his namesake.
Worse, Maggie has suddenly become the reluctant guardian of Ben, a teenage girl possessed of a strange clan power, much like herself. Ben seems to look up to Maggie just as much as she seems to fear her, but she is also young and fiery with a thirst for vengeance. So when the twins Rissa and Clive Goodacre come calling with new information on the whereabouts of the White Locust, it is no surprise that the girl wants to tag along. Maggie doesn’t like the idea, but can’t deny that Ben’s power might be useful, for the news the Goodacre siblings bring isn’t good. It appears the cult leader had paid a visit to their home, taken their youngest brother Caleb with him, and that Kai might have been complicit in the abduction. Though Maggie doesn’t want to believe that the man she loves could have been involved, the evidence against him is damning. Determined to get down to the truth, she agrees to help the twins track down the White Locust and get Caleb back—and then perhaps she can also finally confront Kai and clear the air between them.
In all the ways that matter, Storm of Locusts is the perfect sequel. All of our favorite characters are back, with a several new faces to join the fun. Once more, we are transported to a world steeped in Native American myths and culture, where indigenous characters and their lives are in the foreground of both the setting and the story. Speaking of which, the plot of Storm of Locusts was a blast, making for a quick read where the action never stopped, and the turns just kept on coming. Overall, the writing also felt tighter and more streamlined, so needless to say, the pages flew by in a frenzy.
But Rebecca Roanhorse has not been content to simply retread old ground and rehash the previous book’s ideas. For one, I loved how the gates were literally flung open to the rest of the world in this sequel, with the story taking us beyond the magical walls of Dinétah to see how other survivors of the Big Water have managed to eke out a life in this post-apocalyptic landscape. Readers are treated to a road trip (by land, by water, and even by air) of sorts as we join Maggie on a journey that includes a treacherous route through human trafficking territory, a run-in with an implacable god who still has unfinished business with our protagonist, as well as the eventual confrontation with the mysterious foe known as the White Locust. But amidst all the danger, there are moments of peace and beauty too. Not all of the country had been destroyed when the world went to hell, and we also get to see how pockets of civilization have survived in areas surrounding calm picturesque lakes and the mighty concrete dams on the Colorado River that are still standing.
Then there are the characters. Maggie is not the easiest protagonist to like, but she does grow on you after a while. In Storm of Locusts, she’s still as stubborn and combative as ever, but it’s also true that since Kai came along, her edges have softened a little. And now with the introduction of Ben, Maggie has opened up even more, to my delight. Because much like the first book, the plot of this novel is in fact very straightforward and uncomplicated, following a classic quest narrative. Ultimately, it’s the relationships that really drive the story, and in this area, the sequel has greatly outdone its predecessor. I suspect part of this is because romantic element is downplayed, allowing the story to focus on Maggie’s dynamics with Ben, Clive, and Rissa instead. These friendships have defined her personality and motivations in a way that her romance with Kai could not, and I’m glad we were given a chance to explore her character from this angle.
Overall, I loved Storm of Locusts. It’s a sequel that took all the best parts of Trail of Lightning and made them even bigger and better, while also adding fresh ideas and new adventures for our protagonists. I’m thrilled with the direction of this series and hope the trend of improvement keeps up! Can’t wait for book three!
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Trail of Lightning (Book 1)