Storm of Locusts
Review by Laura Gregory
The Energy Wars are over and Dinétah has been a sanctuary to the Diné people since Big Water decimated the Eqsarth. But even though the water was held at bay outside the towering walls built by the gods, there are still monsters wandering within. From the creatures who butcher humans to the godlike people who walk the earth, the violence is not for the faint of heart. Rebecca Roanhorse has shaken up the stakes of urban fantasy with fresh blood and new monsters reinvigorating the genre. The first novel in this engaging indigenous urban fantasy series, Trail of Lightning, introduced us to Maggie Hoskie, the “monsterslayer” and one of the fighters who goes out in the night to kill those who would hunt the inhabitants of Dinétah. Gifted with Clan powers that give her unnatural speed and a killer’s bloodlust, she has earned the respect of the people and even the gods who walk among them. Having faced hardships and loss, she also opened herself up to letting others into her solitary life. This is where the stakes in the sequel, Storm of Locusts, get raised. Because once you care about someone, you risk the threat of losing them.
A cult has descended on Dinétah. The cultists have delicate metal wings and sing a song that manipulates those who hear it. Followers of the mysterious White Locust, they are here to bring Dinétah to its final judgement. While tracking their mysterious trail, Maggie learns that Kai, the persuasive, handsome medicine man who charmed his way into her life, has gone missing and might be under White Locust’s control. Where once Maggie would have gone hunting alone, shotgun and Böker strapped on her body, this time she falls in with others intent on the same target. Clever teenage Ben, who has her own Clan powers of light-footedness and tracking, and whose guardian was a victim of White Locust, has ended up in Maggie’s care. Also Rissa, another fierce, independent fighter who reluctantly joins up with Maggie to find her missing brother. But when the trail leads them to the edge of Dinétah and through the wall beyond, they’re all at the mercy of the unknown.
The women of Storm of Locusts are fierce and effective killers. The hard-as-nails stereotype can feel a bit relentless, but the land they live on and the monsters they fight mean that their guard can never truly go down. Within the trio, Maggie and Rissa are at odds. Rissa, having grown up in a family and close to her brothers, understands bonds of friendship but is viciously protective and loyal to those she loves. Having not earned that trust yet, she and Maggie are always ready to draw down on each other at a moment’s notice. The aggression is exhausting, but alleviated by Ben, an optimistic but not naïve girl who has fallen under Maggie’s care. She provides a fresh perspective to the trials and hardships of the world, while also bringing a lightness to parts of the story. Through her resilient nature, we finally see Maggie start to understand that caring for others can be a strength instead of a weakness.
This is not the type of urban fantasy where the heroine falls into bed with every sexy supernatural creature. In a refreshing perspective, the skills that make Maggie a ferocious killer also make it hard for her to love. Kai’s caring, supportive, nature is the perfect balance to Maggie’s hostility, and his absence is missed as she is on a mission to rescue him through the novel.
Once again the godlike characters who inhabit Dinétah truly make this a unique, living, breathing world with a rich mythology. Mósi the Cat is a delightful character, at once indifferent and playful, helpful but coy, willing to assist but always self-serving, just as any respectable cat should be. There’s another appearance by Ma’ii the Coyote, a trickster whose aid may or may not be in Maggie’s best interest, but who leaves an impact with every scene. New characters Nohoilpi and Tó add complexity to the quest, leaving readers to guess who is friend and who is foe.
Expanding the rich world-building of Dinétah, Storm of Locusts gives a glimpse of what’s been happening outside the walls since Big Water. The outside is no less fascinating, with sentient casinos holding people hostage and a bloodcurdling journey through Knifetown, where people and organs are sold to the highest bidder. This time the monsters aren’t only supernatural, but also humans who have gone down the path of evil, turning on each other in cruel acts of survival and greed. The path forward relies on trust, from trickster gods and goddesses who maybe can’t be trusted, to new friends and allies. In this way, Maggie grows from just being a badass fighter to someone who wants to be a protector. But the stakes are higher than ever before, with a villain that’s immune to bullets and her entire home of Dinétah at stake. And the awful suspicion that even if she can finally reach Kai, she’s not sure he’ll even want to be saved.