Review of the Killer of Enemies trilogy

Killer of Enemies
by Joseph Bruchac
Middle School, High School     Tu/Lee & Low     358 pp.
10/13     978-1-62014-143-4     $19.95     g

A deadly assassin with extrasensory powers that help her locate her adversaries, Lozen works as a monster-killer, taking out genetically modified superbeasts — giant bloodthirsty eagles, the vampiric Bloodless, a colossal anaconda — that escaped captivity after the Cloud wiped out all of Earth’s electronics. Named for a warrior-woman forebear, Lozen calls on tribal tales from her Apache-Chiricahua ancestors for inspiration in out-thinking the creatures. Her mother, brother, and sister are being held hostage to ensure her continued service to the elite Ones controlling Haven, a prison-turned-fortress in the Sonoran desert. Lozen has vowed to get her family out, but without a new fortress to go to, her family could easily become lunch for the creatures Lozen is sent to kill. Bruchac devises ever-more-dangerous battles for his protagonist and intersperses them with steadily worsening conditions on the home front, upping the stakes in the increasingly suspenseful story. What really makes the narrative vibrate is Lozen’s sardonic voice, capturing both gallows humor and a very human vulnerability. Admirers of kick-ass heroines such as Katniss Everdeen will definitely want to see more of Lozen, and, since Bruchac ends with a pause rather than a period, a sequel is a tantalizing possibility.

From the January/February 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Trail of the Dead [Killer of Enemies]
by Joseph Bruchac
Middle School, High School     Tu/Lee & Low     387 pp.
10/15     978-1-62014-261-5     $19.95
e-book ed. 978-1-62014-262-2    $8.99

Having escaped from the post-apocalyptic prison-like Haven in Killer of Enemies (rev. 1/14), battle-hardened Lozen leads her band of refugees through the desert toward Valley Where First Light Paints the Cliffs, the place where Lozen’s family lived before their capture. They face many dangers: not only is the desert filled with genetically modified monsters created in the time before the Silver Cloud wiped out all electronics on Earth, but the elite Ones who rule Haven are out to punish and kill their unwilling subjects, sending a Lakota near-immortal assassin named Luther Little Wound to hunt Lozen down. Nor is Lozen at peak fighting strength — her spirit is afflicted with something her Apache-Chiricahua ancestors called Enemy Sickness, or post-traumatic stress. Although the narrative objective in this sequel is slightly more diffuse than that of its razor-sharp predecessor, the sardonic protagonist is as magnetic, the peril is as intense, and the invention is as fresh as ever as Bruchac develops his dystopian world in new and intriguing directions. Native American legends, including those about irascible trickster Coyote, enrich the tale while familiarizing readers with contexts such as the circumstances under which traditional tales are told and their continued resilience in the face of cultural erasure. An author’s note adds even more detail. Bruchac’s exhilarating story leaves him with plenty of momentum heading into the projected final book of the trilogy.

From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Arrow of Lightning [Killer of Enemies]
by Joseph Bruchac
Middle School, High School     Tu/Lee & Low     388 pp.    g
5/17     978-1-62014-330-8     $19.95

In this final volume of the trilogy set in a post-apocalyptic American Southwest, Lozen (Killer of Enemies, rev. 1/14) fights to protect the little free settlement she’s established for her family and the refugees from the prison stronghold of Haven, among whom is Hussein, the musician who holds her heart. But the powers Lozen inherited from her Chiricahua ancestors allow her to know that the hired assassin who nearly killed her in the second book, Trail of the Dead (rev. 11/15), survived their last battle and is back on her trail; and that furthermore, the remaining sadistic and megalomaniacal rulers of Haven are in a competition over who will succeed in destroying Lozen’s settlement. As in previous volumes, Lozen’s decisions are informed by stories from her Native heritage, and Coyote himself and a few other supernatural actors take a hand in the events. His trickster energy (and Lozen’s own self-deprecating inner monologue) keep the narrative playful and the boundary between sci-fi and folklore porous. Watching Lozen grow from a solitary hunter who killed genetically modified monsters into a hero to rival her Chiricahua ancestral namesake — but also a person who now has so much more to lose — will keep readers enthralled to the very end.

From the July/August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Anita L. Burkam

Anita L. Burkam
Horn Book reviewer Anita L. Burkam is former associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine.

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