I have a tiny addiction to Joseph Bruchac's KILLER OF ENEMIES books, as you'll note from my original review, the review of the ROSE EAGLE novella, and the fact that I do cover reveals for the KILLERS series - which I don't often even notice are going on, with other books. In between books in this series, I generally make a nuisance of myself, poking around Tu Books and pressing my face to the glass. (Metaphorically.) Where other post-apocalyptic books are literally the stuff of nightmares, and I find myself depressed by them, or rushing through the awful parts, the characterization in these novels make the nightmare-monster-filled desert a place that seems ...kinda homey. In a terrible way. Like, I could do without the flying monkeys...
Unlike many books which bridge the first and last bits of a trilogy, there is important story happening here - with the action slowed (but not by much - still plenty of varmints that need killin'), we get to know a different Lozen, one who is still struggling with newly discovered powers and trying to learn to rely on them like she would her own five senses, we see her weaknesses and challenges and we're introduced to a terrifying, soulless evil that always returns...
I'm happy to have read this sequel, and while you're waiting to get yours (October 1, 2015), you might go back and start at the beginning of the series while you wait. It's worth your while.
Summary: Lozen keeps waiting to feel like there's been... victory. Everyone is standing upright. Nobody's dead. Even some long-lost people she respected have caught up to she and her newly reunited family. Hussein is still right beside her, and together, they're on the way to the Valley where the rest of the Chiricahua in their group was left behind -- so why does she feel like the bottom is about to drop out of the universe? And, why does she feel so... dark? So empty? The nightmares are the worst, and she keeps listening, looking, calling silently for Hally - but he's nowhere to be found, now.
Everyone looks to Lozen like she's the girl with the plan, but how did she end up in charge of this ragtag bunch of survivors? And, what is she supposed to do, when it turns out that the Valley on which she pinned all her hopes isn't a safe place at all? Her finger's are twitchy on her guns - and she's hurting beings who doesn't deserve it. Coyote isn't to be trusted - yet he's lurking, and there are hostile eyes, all around them. Lozen feels brittle -- like she's going to break -- and the feeling of being stalked increases. Something's got to give, but they're running out of time.
Peaks: There are ...pop culture references in this novel that Lozen doesn't understand, but which are little gifts for the reader, spoken by The Dreamer and Hally. Sometimes it's other books which pop up and wave, and there was a Robert Burns reference that gave me a little twinge of unexpected poignant loveliness. There's a very funny battle of wits with Coyote that I enjoyed especially - and I think the odd bits of comic relief put in when Lozen can hardly smile are important because she cannot smile. She cannot laugh. She cannot lay the battle down and pick up hope -- because Warrior Mind - or PTSD - makes it feel like you're going to be fighting a war forever.
The feeling of utter defeat after having to kill not just monsters but people? Is one that shouldn't be downplayed. This is why Lozen isn't characterized as just some noble-profiled superheroine, but a real person. All of the running around and leadership and powers-having GETS OLD. All of the people who have lost because of her, have been hurt, because others were gunning for her, or manipulating her - all of this weighs on her soul. I also appreciated that while Lozen may be struggling, when she finds help, it's not Insta-Help. The relief is immediate, but Lozen acknowledges immediately that one cannot live on a mountaintop, nor stay in a place of healing - warriors have to go down again and take up the fight, but the trick is carrying the place of peace and healing along with them.
Cover Chatter: I love that the model for the first and second books remains the same, and I can't wait to see what the final looks like.
Conclusion: Slightly slowing to let us see a bit more of Lozen's world, her soul, and her struggles, this second volume in this KILLER trilogy gives us more Chiricahua stories - and a Bedu one, too - more enemies to worry over, and more to love to in this crazy post-apocalyptic version of America. Your readers will want to finish this and then go right back to the first one like I did.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of Tu Books. After October 1, you can find TRAIL OF THE DEAD by Joseph Bruchac at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!