This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend. Read the full disclosure here.
Book: “Sisters of the Lost Nation” by Nick Medina
Publishing Info: Berkley, April 2023
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound
Book Description: Anna Horn is always looking over her shoulder. For the bullies who torment her, for the entitled visitors at the reservation’s casino…and for the nameless, disembodied entity that stalks her every step–an ancient tribal myth come-to-life, one that’s intent on devouring her whole.
With strange and sinister happenings occurring around the casino, Anna starts to suspect that not all the horrors on the reservation are old. As girls begin to go missing and the tribe scrambles to find answers, Anna struggles with her place on the rez, desperately searching for the key she’s sure lies in the legends of her tribe’s past.
When Anna’s own little sister also disappears, she’ll do anything to bring Grace home. But the demons plaguing the reservation–both ancient and new–are strong, and sometimes, it’s the stories that never get told that are the most important.
Part gripping thriller and part mythological horror, author Nick Medina spins an incisive and timely novel of life as an outcast, the cost of forgetting tradition, and the courage it takes to become who you were always meant to be.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!
Horror fiction is, for me, a fun way to escape the horrors of the real world whilst also safely exploring emotions of fear and anxiety in a controlled environment. I love getting lost in a horror novel or movie, as it gives me some time away from real life scary shit. But more and more I’ve really come to appreciate horror stories that tackle themes of these real life horrors, especially in times like these where there is so much uncertainty and discord. Give me horror fiction that delves in metaphors for terrible things, especially if it brings awareness to these terrible things. Enter “Sisters of the Lost Nation” by Nick Medina, a new horror novel that involves a young adult Native woman named Anna living on a reservation who works at the local tribal casino. Strange things have been happening at the casino, and while Anna tries to tell herself that it’s nothing, it becomes harder and harder to ignore. Especially when her sister Grace goes missing after being involved with the casino and its shady practices.
I’m actually going to start with the thing that didn’t really work for me as well, just to get it out of the way because it did affect my experience, but not in a way that derailed it. I just think it’s needed context to make my ultimate rating make sense as I’m going to be gushing for the most part. The one aspect that fell a bit flat was the way that the book was structured. There was a lot of time jumping between chapters, in non-linear ways that felt a bit jarring and confusing at times. I did eventually get used to it, and it did eventually settle into a more clear cut timeline, but for awhile I had to keep flipping back on my eReader to remind me where I was in the story arc, and that could be frustrating.
But now onto the good stuff, as there is a lot of it. For one, I really liked the horror elements that Medina creates that come from various Indigenous stories from lots of different groups of Native peoples. The one that stands out the most is a story that has translated into that of a disembodied head that rolls around the (fictional) Takoda Reservation. Protagonist Anna Horn has been terrified of this story as long as she an remember, as her uncle told her the story as a young child and is now a teenager who still lives in fear of it. The weird beats where Anna catches a glimpse of something possibly rolling around, or feels the heat of breath from an unknown source, really creeped me out. But I also liked that her fear and obsession with this story and her belief that it is real also made it so that she was interested in the lore and mythology of her community and people, as it made for a stark contrast to the real life horrors of a casino that may be hiding some really dark secrets and is in some ways turning its back on this history in favor of monetary gain. Anna’s interest in her culture and its stories is a really powerful thread in this tale, and how the power of stories, be they terrifying or not, can play such an important role in a person’s life and their motivations.
And the best aspect of this book for me was how Medina has put such a candid and devastating spotlight on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, a terrible epidemic that has reflects the continuing violence, apathy, and racism that Indigenous women face from greater Western society. Anna faces her own sets of victimization and racism at the hands of her peers and those above her at the casino, but she is also realizing that Indigenous women are going off the radar, and being dismissed as either runaways, or merely addicts who are off on the search for a hit. So when her own sister Grace goes missing, and there are few people taking it seriously, it hits close to home, and she begins to notice that there are suspicious things going on at the casino. And that the girls who are disappearing may have ties to the higher ups. I was so deeply invested in where these missing women went, and when it becomes clear that they are quite probably in danger, or being manipulated in other ways, it just makes the story that much more tense and upsetting. Medina sets the tension on edge and really builds it up, and addresses a very real problem against the backdrop of this fictional tribe with very real problems of poverty, corruption, racism, and misogyny. I also really appreciated the author’s note at the end which gives greater context to MMIW, as well as resources he used and information spots for the reader to familiarize themselves with all of it.
“Sisters of the Lost Nation” is a visceral and chilling read. Fans of horror and thrillers need to check it out, but I also think readers of all stripes should do themselves a favor and look into it. It’s wholly unique and talks about very real injustices that need to be paid attention to.
Rating 8: A searing and devastating horror-thriller that not only finds horrors in Indigenous mythology and lore, but also in the all too real Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic.
“Sisters of the Lost Nation” is included on the Goodreads lists “Indigenous Horror, Thriller, etc”, and “Horror To Look Forward To in 2023”.