“Elatsoe” Review

The cover is covered with white cloudy shapes of dogs with a young girl standing on the right side of the cover near the top. She is wearing a red coat and black pants and has long hair. The title is written out across one of the dogs. Written by Darcie Little Badger
Published by Levine Querido, August 2020
362 pages
Completed August 4, 2023

Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.

There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.

Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.

Darcie Little Badger is an extraordinary debut talent in the world of speculative fiction. We have paired her with her artistic match, illustrator Rovina Cai. This is a book singular in feeling and beauty.

I enjoyed this book, but I had some trouble following it at times. Something about the writing style didn’t work for me. I felt like important information got lost within paragraphs describing various things. I also felt like the world could have been explained more – why were there randomly vampires and feiry rings for traveling? I know it’s meant to be urban fantasy and it should have have worked, but something felt off about it. All that said I enjoyed reading about Elatsoe and her friend figuring out what had happened to her cousin. I also liked that her parents were supportive as well in helping her figure out what had happened. It is essentially another story where kids/teenagers save the day but in this case the parents are helpful instead of useless.