YA Reads: Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

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Elatsoe is set in an recognizable but slightly different contemporary America, where magic and magical beings are commonplace. People can travel by Fairy Ring (it’s regulated); vampires have rights (and “old age” homes); and magic can be studied in university. Ellie, the asexual Lipan Apache protagonist, has inherited her Six-Great-Grandmother’s spirit-calling abilities. While calling on human ghosts is forbidden, Ellie’s deceased dog Kirby is her devoted ghost companion and she practices her powers by trying to raise the spirits of fossils just to see if it’s possible. Little Badger’s world-building is a fascinating blend of small-town realism, folklore and magic from a variety of cultures and Indiginous traditions, and spooky near-horror. It’s entirely different, yet works so well without a ton of info-dumping. 

Ellie’s character is a breath of fresh air, both in her confidence, her curiosity, and her commitment to helping people and honoring her ancestors. She learns to control and use her abilities both through practice and through the folkloric stories of her ancestors. Her friendship with Jay, the semi-fae descendent of Oberon, is a strong one. Reference is made to Ellie being asexual in a short line of dialogue, a nice moment that shows that queer characters can exist in books that are not solely about that. 

The magical murder mystery at the heart of this story, the murder of Ellie's cousin Trevor, is suspenseful. Ellie investigates with the help and support of numerous family and friends, colorful side characters who feel equally as real as Ellie. I loved seeing a whole multi-generational family and friend group pull together in such a cohesive unit.

I’d recommend Elatsoe to paranormal and fantasy readers looking for something different, especially those who love stories of magic that take place in the (almost) real world and those who love stories that incorporate non-white, non-European traditions. Readers who like books that don’t fit neatly into one genre will especially love this. Readers looking for asexual protagonists that star in stories not all about their sexuality will also enjoy Elatsoe.

Readalikes: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (YA), The Wide Starlight by Nicole Lesperance (YA), and Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (adult).

Find copies of Elatsoe here and reserve a copy of the forthcoming A Snake Falls to Earth here. Sign up for our November 10 virtual author visit with Darcie Little Badger here.


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Krista Hutley
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