Trail of the Dead by Joseph Bruchac

As much as I really enjoyed Killer of Enemies, this second book felt very much like a “second in the series” let down. Not much happens, most felt like filler, and there’s a lot of words just to set up the events in the final third book. Add in animal torture that streamrolled into full on torture porn, and I find I just can’t recommend this to friends.

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Story: Lozen is leading her ragtag band to a better home. But vindictive Ones have sent a killer after her – one with a reputation of never dying. As he slowly closes in on her, gleefully dealing death along the way, Lozen’s special abilities may not be enough to save her from this new threat.

Trail of the Dead started wonderfully – with Bruchac’s great storytelling and rich characterizations making me eager to find out what happens. Each person was so uniquely defined and distinct that it was a joy to turn each page. But that joy disappeared somewhere in the middle as the story became about Lozen’s PTSD darkness rather than the characters and their interactions. Not enough of interest really happened and the great characterizations sort of died there.

Most of the story is told in alternating POVs between Lozen and her evil stalker. He spends his POV pages gleefully finding new ways to torment and torture animals – to the extent where it was completely unnecessary from a storytelling standpoint – yes, we get it, he’s eeeeeevil. Honestly, I wish his POVs were completely jettisoned since nothing happens in them other than bad deeds and some set up to the final big battle between him and Lozen.

The ending, like the beginning, was interesting and I felt Bruchac hit his stride again with it. Yes, set up from the saggy middle aided in the impact – but at the same time, less could have been written to have the same effect.

As frustrating as the read was (and vile – I really disliked the repeated torture porn vignettes), I am still looking forward to the final book in the series. Bruchac is truly an amazing storyteller and there is so much originality and uniqueness in Killer of Enemies to make it well worth the investment in time.

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