Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm not the target audience for this book (by a few, hrmm, decades) but I did enjoy it. This is a middle grade fantasy with Indigenous protagonists, drawing on the Navajo myth of the Hero Twins. Spider Woman shows up, as does the Sun God, and a talking horned toad guide named Mr. Yazzie. Nizhoni and Marcus Begay, the protagonists, have to defeat monsters--but to gain the weapons needed to do so, they have to go on a quest that teaches them a lot about their family and themselves.
Because the protagonists are thirteen and twelve respectively, the prose is simple (not simplistic) and straightforward, and there is more emphasis on the plot. There's a lot of action, especially the final battle, where Nizhoni and her allies take to the air on giant magical birds. The characterization is adequate, if not very deep, and descriptions are minimal. Again, this is all in service of the intended audience. What sets this apart is that this is an Indigenous author, writing an Indigenous story and culture, and it's long overdue.
(Whether the depiction of Navajo myth and culture is accurate is not, of course, something I can judge. It felt real and lived-in to me, and suited the story. As the author states in her final note, "Thinking of her [her daughter], and all the Native kids this book could reach, and all the non-Native kids who know only the stereotypes associated with Natives, or, worse, labor under the belief that we're all dead, I knew I wanted to write this book.")
Rebecca Roanhorse also writes adult fiction: Indigenous-themed urban and epic fantasy. I think this would be a good intro to her themes and style of writing, and I would encourage you to sample her other works.
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