Author: Darcie Little Badger
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Pub. Date: Nov. 2021 (read Jan. 2022)
A Snake Falls to Earth was one of my most anticipated books for 2021 – I wasn’t able to get my hands on a copy in 2021, so I read it early in 2022 and really enjoyed it! It’s the second book from Darcie Little Badger, whose debut novel was Elatsoe. I really loved Elatsoe, which is why I was so excited for this one.
Overall, I don’t think I liked A Snake Falls to Earth quite as much as Elatsoe, but it’s also hard to compare because they are very different books. A Snake Falls to Earth delves into Lipan Apache history and legend about the joined Era, when spirits and monsters walked the Earth. The spirit world has since become separated from Earth, but our protagonist, Nina, a Lipan Apache girl, believes animal people may still occasionally visit earth. We follow two parallel stories, that of Nina, and of Oli, a cottonmouth from the spirit world. Until one day a snake falls to earth and the two meet.
Little Badger still captures a lot of the magic of what made Elatsoe so great in this book. I adore her writing style, which I think reads like middle grade rather than young adult, but both her stories are strongly centered around family and place. She writes very thoughtful teenagers – whether or not it’s an accurate portrayal of teens, I’m not sure, but it’s very refreshing to read. She also blends Lipan Apache storytelling and cultural elements seamlessly into the narrative. I loved learning all about the joined era and animal people and the interesting quirks and abilities of each of her family members.
Oli’s story is much more whimsical and I didn’t find it quite as compelling early in the novel. Again, I love the characters (Oli, Reign, Risk, Ari, Brightest, and the bear, and the mockingbird), but I didn’t find myself really engaged in the story until they started their journey to earth and their adventures blended with Nina’s. Plus I found the spirit world to be somewhat lacking in tension. Oli has the run in with the Alligator and the Fish (I’m sorry I can’t remember what specific animal it was), but I’m not sure that it added a lot to the story and felt more like the kind of faux drama you’d find in a children’s book. Whereas Paul and the hurricane were more believable threats. It’s a great feel-good book, but I think it could benefit from just a little bit more conflict and tension.
I loved Grandma! I thought her connection to the land and the fact that she couldn’t leave it was fascinating. Plus I appreciated the inclusion of oral storytelling and respect for elders. I only wished that Nina had more friends. She grows throughout the course of the novel and essentially has no friends throughout. I thought that would likely have a big impact on her character over time and was sad to see that she remains a loner the entire book. I know she eventually befriends the animal people, but given that they can only visit earth occasionally, I don’t think this would really benefit her in the long term.
Anyways, I still really liked it. The structure is interesting and falls a really different narrative than Elatsoe, but both offer something really special and different from what we see in most literature these days. Just another reason why it’s important to amplify all voices! Will definitely read whatever this author decides to write next!