Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by Darcie Little Badger
(2020, Levine Querido)

A girl with the power to call the dead investigates her cousin’s murder, while finding out about her abilities and the relative from whom she inherited them.


+ -- First reading (ebook)
April 2nd to 10th, 2023


I enjoyed this book a lot, especially given that it’s not my usual genre. Ghosts and vampires, hauntings and coffins don’t normally interest me, but I took a chance on this one anyway. While simply written in a lot of places, especially the non-romance, it conveyed the sense of a conflicted but determined teenager. I liked the beginning of the book more, with basically one ghost dog and some other summonings in backstory form, compared with the more action-oriented end, which had a lot of horror-style tricks that had me less interested. The mystery, however, was well documented and well-solved by the two teens. They do their own research, and follow their own leads, which kept the story going. The fact that this girl was native and her powers grew from those roots, was engaging, showing the power of the ancient world. It was enlightening to see a story from the native point of view, describing their history as one of survival against the white men. Although I enjoyed the mystery part of the book, and Ellie’s character, my favorite parts were the stories of six-great grandmother, whose heroics were more of a fantasy nature.

Spoiler review:

As a murder mystery, this story worked well. It also worked well as a girl who finds a bit of meaning to her life. She’s a native American of an almost lost tribe, and that flows through the story naturally. It also lends itself to the ancient world where spirits interacted with the native people through natural elements like weather. In this case, the women in her family can speak to and raise the ghosts of the dead.

In this world, it’s dangerous to raise humans, who always come back as vengeance, no matter how nice they were in their life. So she raised her dog when he died, and now the spectral canine follows her around, sometimes invisible. It’s cute, and probably better than the mammoth her grand mother raised.

When her cousin comes to her in a dream, telling her he was murdered by Abe Allerton of Willowbee, Texas, a nearby town, Ellie tells her parents, and they believe her, knowing her abilities. While her mother has gone to help her aunt’s wife and their son, Ellie and her father drive there a short time later to investigate.

Ellie’s friend is Jay, who is part fey, which means he can travel the fairy rings to transport immediately to several places that have rings. He does a lot of off-screen investigating for her, and most of it shows how Allerton is a genius healer and a wonderful doctor, philanthropist and a wonderful guy. Ellie and Jay dig deeper, get psychics involved (including a phony TV psychic, which was funny). They discover the spot where Trevor’s body was found is not where he died, and find the actual location of the car accident. Ellie and her mother Vivian get chased away from a visit to Allerton’s mansion by vampires.

Then Ellie puts clues together from the places she visited, including the library. I figured it out just a few paragraphs before Ellie gets confirmation –that Allerton is transferring pain and injuries from his paying customers to outsiders, so those he treats are fully cured. The strangers get strange injuries without knowing how.

When Jay’s future brother-in-law gets captured while investigating, they go to the mansion to rescue him, knowing that Trevor’s ghost will be there looking for revenge. While the climax was well written, it interested me less, being a fight against vampires and ghosts. I liked the way Ellie used her dog’s piercing howl to distract Trevor’s ghost and get away from Allerton himself. When she called the dogs of her six-great grandmother, it wasn’t a complete surprise, except that I was expecting her to make a trip back to the underworld instead. This she does a little later, and leaves Allerton behind there.

There is unfortunately no follow-up to the town –Allerton said the town would die without him. Did he mean it literally or just that people wouldn’t be healed? Ellie considers herself asexual, so there was no romance with Jay, but it looks like he might want one. Will she find her orientation with his help? I found the return of her dog, after getting lost in the underworld, to be underwhelming and a little cheesy. The author could have made the dog’s sacrifice mean more if the dog had stayed there, and Ellie had to live with the loss. But dogs do often find their way home, so it’s not completely unrealistic. It just made me feel like the author was going for a feel-good ending without earning it.

The writing was captivating when describing six-great grandmother. I loved her stories, and that might be because of the more fantasy nature to them, rather than battling vampires and ghosts. Ellie’s rescue of Trevor back when they were younger by raising dead mosquitos to swarm their supernatural attacker was another great memory. But when dealing with family and friends, the writing didn’t feel quite so interesting. Maybe more real, but less fantasy. Just not my style, I guess.

Fortunately, the book kept me interested throughout, for the most part. It was a fun read, even if it’s not my favorite genre.


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