Book Review: The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau
The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau
Published: October 27th 2015 by Scholastic Press
Format: Paper Book
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Cultural, Poverty
Rating: 4.5 stars
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Nothing exciting happens on the Hill of Dust, in the remote mountains of Mexico in the 1950s. There’s no electricity, no plumbing, no cars, just day after day of pasturing goats. And now, without his sister and mother, eleven-year-old Teo’s life feels even more barren. And then one day, the mysterious young Esma, who calls herself the Gypsy Queen of Lightning, rolls into town like a fresh burst of color. Against all odds, her caravan’s Mistress of Destiny predicts that Teo and Esma will be longtime friends. Suddenly, life brims with possibility. With the help of a rescued duck, a three-legged skunk, a blind goat, and other allies, Teo and Esma must overcome obstacles-even death-to fulfill their impossible destiny. Inspired by true stories derived from rural Mexico, The Lightning Queen offers a glimpse of the encounter between two fascinating but marginalized cultures–the Rom and the Mixtec Indians–while telling the heart-warming story of an unlikely friendship that spans generations.
I was surprised with how much I liked The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau. I usually like my books with more action and excitement; but The Lightning Queen was rich and magical and I found myself unable to put it down. Teo and Esma’s story was genuinely interesting. The book did have its harsh elements. The sexism of both the Romani and Mixteco cultures made me livid and the racism both cultures experienced was heartbreaking. It is a harsh look into civil rights issues in the past and a reminder that we are still dealing with those same issues in the present day. I felt both sadness and anger seeing the mistreatment within another culture, even if I’m not familiar with the Mexican culture as a whole. It was fascinating to peek into a different world.
The Lightning Queen is what I call a ‘small story’; that is, the storyline is very focused. Small stories are driven by the characters, rather than grandiose plots and events. So the characters are very important and I don’t normally pick up such books because it usually falls flat for me. More often than not, I end up bored. Here, the characters were amazing. You connect with Teo and Esma and care about what happens to them. We end up with a charming story of friendship and understanding. I was a bit concerned with it being set in both the past and present but for the bulk of the story we are in the past and most of the present timeline events are at the end of the book, allowing the main storyline between Teo and Esma to unfold without interruption. I hate it when books jump back and forth multiple times during a story but, thankfully, we avoided that. The only other major peeve I have is the mother, who spends the book so deep in depression after the death of her daughter as to be catatonic, despite having a living child that desperately needs her care. I wanted to crawl into the book just to slap her. I can’t imagine ignoring a child to the point where you have no reaction when that child is slowly dying himself, no matter what happened in the past.
The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau is original and well-crafted and the story flows easily. The desert landscape is beautiful but it is the characters in this book that are the real magic; from Esma who refuses to abandon her dreams no matter the personal cost to herself, to Teo, who retains his kindness despite his own pain and misfortunes. The Lightning Queen is a compelling look into cultural and ethnic differences and how two young children overcome those differences to be friends and help each other. The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau was mesmerizing and I thoroughly enjoyed it.