A Snake Falls to Earth

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
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!

Elatsoe

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Darcie Little Badger
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pub. Date: Aug. 2020 (read March 2021)

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon Elatsoe, it may have been on Booktube, but I was immediately intrigued by the plotline. Elatsoe is a young adult story about 17 year old, Lipan Apache member, Elatsoe. She is one of a long line of women who can raise the ghosts of dead animals and is inspired by her six-great grandmother for whom she is named.

When her cousin, Trevor passes after a car crash and his ghost visits her in a dream, warning her that he was actually murdered, Elatsoe is catapulted on a mission to bring her cousin’s murderer to justice. She travels to his hometown with her parents to comfort his widow and immediately starts searching for the truth of Trevor’s untimely passing. In the process, she encounters more ghosts and makes a worrisome journey that causes her to seek advice from her elders.

I loved this book. It is such a wholesome story – it deals with heavy themes, yet it always feels like a light and fun read. I thought it read a little more like middle grade than YA, but that is really what made this feel like such a wholesome read. Instead of the teenage angst you usually find within the pages of a YA novel, Elatsoe is an individual who is very much comfortable with who she is and maintains good relationships with her friends and family. In a way it’s a coming of age story, but one in which she is respectful of her family members and seeks guidance from them. It is mentioned in passing that she is asexual and I loved that it’s just accepted by all the characters and we move on from there. Her best friend is male, but there is no love story between them and their friendship is very much built on trust and respect. It’s refreshing to read a book with such well balanced and respectful characters.

The author, Darcie Little Badger, is also Lipan Apache and she brings a very interesting fantastical element to the story. Elatsoe lives in a similar world to us, but her world is filled with monsters both seen and unseen. Personally, I thought the monster idea could have been a bit better developed and overall could probably have done without it, but the inclusion of ghosts in the story is really what makes it shine. She integrates Lipan Apache culture into the story flawlessly and I loved how she wove the verbal storytelling of Elatsoe’s ancestors into the book. I found it very engaging and it added so much depth to the story.

This was really close to a 5 star read for me. I thought it got a little plot heavy towards the end, and while we do see character growth throughout, I would have liked to see a little more character development at the end instead of going heavy on a ghost showdown. But it’s really a minor comment and I would still absolutely recommend this book to everyone. The writing is lovely and it reads very quickly. I think it’s a story that can be enjoyed by all ages and am so happy to see more indigenous voices and indigenous stories being published. 4.5 stars!