This book is kind of difficult to classify. It’s kind of a speculative fiction, alternate reality, paranormal murder mystery, I guess.
The world in the story is pretty identical to ours except that it is no stranger to magic, and discussions about monsters, magic, and ghosts, and heroes of legends are not unusual. There are also vampires who’ve pretty much been accepted by society and even fairy rings, which serve as a mode of transportation.
Our tale follows a young Lipan Apache girl named Elatsoe, who has the ability to raise the ghosts of animals. She even has a ghost dog named Kirby as a companion. This skill has been passed down to her through the women in her family. In fact, her six-great grandmother was quite a legendary hero. We learn that Elatsoe’s cousin Trevor has just been killed in an automobile accident, but he appears to her in her dreams and informs her that his death was no accident. He even names his murderer: a man in Willowbee called Abe Allerton and asks Elatsoe to ensure that justice is done and protect his family.
She ends up investigating the odd little town where her cousin’s murderer lives and, in the process, unearths some pretty dark secrets, and she soon discovers that the murderer is a key figure in a much larger and more dangerous conspiracy.
I especially loved this book because of the numerous indigenous stories that everyone told and how they were seamlessly intertwined with the plot. It’s clear that the concept of “story” is a key theme in this book, and I enjoyed how the stories about “Six-Great” rendered her immortal. I especially loved the tales about her and her ghostly mammoth.
Ellie’s character is also so lovable and real. She’s strong, delightfully nerdy confident, and never doubts her ability to succeed. Her touch of sarcasm and biting wit endeared her all the more to me. She’s also proudly asexual, so I enjoyed that rep in this story. What also really worked for me in this novel was the strong circle of support that Elatsoe has around her, including her parents, her friends, her ever-faithful, and protective ghost dog. Oh, and I absolutely adored her relationship with the ghost dog.
All of the secondary characters are well-fleshed out and vivid, and I enjoyed getting to know all of them. There were also quite riveting in their own right, such as her Fey friend and another character — I think it was her friend’s sister — who’s in love with and hopes to marry a vampire. Additionally, I loved the fact that no matter how far out Elatsoe’s experiences are, her parents and friend never doubt her or question her. At no point does anyone think she’s lying or fail to show her the utmost respect.
This book has a plethora of riveting themes such as grief, loss, family, the exploitation and genocide of indigenous people, colonialism, murder, greed, racism, and so much more. The fact that this was a book focused on Indigenous culture and its traditions was a huge plus for me. We got to see those traditions firsthand in the everyday life of Elosoe and her family.
So yes, this was a wonderfully written magical story with phenomenal world-building and a cast of realistic characters.