Lozen, 17, bears the same name as her forebear, a warrior of the Chiricahua Apache. [Per Wikipedia, the original Lozen, born in the late 1840s, was, legends held, able to use her powers in battle to learn the movements of the enemy. According to Alexander B. Adams in his book Geronimo, “she would stand with her arms outstretched, chant a prayer to Ussen, the Apaches’ supreme deity, and slowly turn around. … By the sensation she felt in her arms, she could tell where the enemy was and how many they numbered.”]
Lozen in the book has similar abilities. She and her family live in a dystopian prison called “Haven” in the Sonoran desert in “New America.” The world changed after a giant magnetic cloud descended that permanent cut off the possibility of any electronics. It also meant that many of the former ruling classes, most of whom had electronic physical enhancements, died. As Lozen recalled, “The most important men and women who chaired the three great corporate nation-states of New America, Euro-Russia, and Afro-Asia all perished painfully, quickly, and dramatically.”
In addition, all of the Gemods, or genetically modified creatures that filled the pleasure parks of the powerful, were no longer confined by electric fences. They ran free and terrorized populations. Safety was found only behind large guarded walls, like the former penitentiary now serving, involuntarily, as the home of Lozen and her family.
Lozen was captured by those now in power, or The Ones, because of her ability as a “monster hunter.” She can sense the Gemods and outwit them with her skills. But she hunts and kills in the manner of her ancestors, making sure to respect her enemies and asking the creature’s spirit for forgiveness for taking its life. And Lozen is no girly-girl. After a kill, she cuts out the heart, says a few old Chiricahua words, and eats it raw. She lives by the variation of the Chiricahua variation of the Twenty-third Psalm taught to her by her murdered Uncle Chatto:
“Yea, though I walk through the Valley of Death
I will fear no evil
for a I am the meanest son of a bitch
in this whole damn valley.”
Holding her family hostage, the Ones keep sending her out on more and more dangerous missions. Lozen has several advantages though, about which the Ones are ignorant. The first is that she has recently developed the ability to read thoughts. It doesn’t always happen, but started not long after the cloud arrived, and has served her well, facilitating her survival. A second is that she can sometimes communicate with ancient Native spirits. They help her and guide her.
But will it be enough? Her ultimate goal is to escape with her family and the attractive boy her age who works in the gardens. She doesn’t know exactly what that would mean – to be out in the open, but she knows that they won’t survive unless they leave.
What I Liked:
A Native American for the heroine, and a fierce one at that (although she thinks a bit too much like a male to be totally convincing to me).
All the information about Apache lore, and the landscape around the Chiricahua Mountains. These beautiful “sky islands” are in Arizona near Tucson and are known for the massive “hoodoos” or stone columns that make the terrain so unique.
What I Didn’t Like:
Menaces include “The Bloodless” or a vampire-like group of people – really? Weren’t the giant genetically constructed animal monsters enough?
The writing isn’t exceptional.
Evaluation: This is a post-apocalyptic dystopia novel that is also a tribute to the spirituality of Native Americans, and is a welcome contribution to diversity in this (or any!) genre. Once again, one must give kudos to Lee & Low for continuing to publish books by and about people of color.
Published by Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, Inc., 2013