Lozen and her family are traveling the Trail of the Dead, or that's how she thinks of it, anyway. They have managed to escape the terribly misnamed Haven and are searching for a safe place to settle down and rebuild their lives. As they journey across the desolate landscape, fighting off attacks by gemods (genetically modified creatures that have escaped from collections once maintained by the rich and powerful), they encounter other escapees from Haven. The slightly larger band of refugees must defend themselves against trolls, flying monkeys (I'm not kidding), and other mutations, as well as avoiding any of the despotic overlords who have established enclaves like the one they left behind.
But lack of food, water, and safety aren't the only problems they face. The lords of Haven have reached out to others of their kind and asked for help in tracking down Lozen's group. The tracker is also genetically modified, although he began as a human. He has increased endurance, strength, sensory perception and a soulless love of killing and torturing. The trickster figure of Native American legends, Coyote, has also taken an interest in Lozen, but one can never be sure of Coyote's intentions. And on top of all that, Lozen is suffering from PTSD, or "enemy sickness," as her people call it.
In the midst of a world still trying to recover from the crash of all electronics, with the surviving humans huddled together under the rule of (at best) half-crazed members of the old ruling class, where can safety be found? Is there any possible way to defeat a mercenary rumored to have already been killed 4 times? And will Lozen be able to find healing for the darkness growing within her? You will have to read to find out.
For those with a little knowledge of Native American history and their treatment by colonists, settlers, and the US government, there are obvious parallels in this futuristic tale. But the resilience and determination so many of those tribes displayed and continue to display is also there. It is encouraging to see the surviving Chiricahuas and Lakotas band together in this series, but also include others like Hussein and Guy. If they are ever going to restore some sort of order to the world and to nature, that sort of acceptance may play a key role.
Bruchac has crafted an heroine with appeal for any reader who enjoys strong female protagonists, as well creating a post-apocalyptic world full of wonders and terrors.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.