Heroes of the Water Monster Book Review

*There will be spoilers for Healer of the Water Monster in this review, as Heroes continues the story from Healer*

Heroes of the Water Monster is just as breathtakingly beautiful as Healer of the Water Monster.

There’s a lot of change in the air for Nathan.

His mom is moving, and not just moving– moving in with Ted, her boyfriend. Ted has a son, too– Edward. Edward and Nathan definitely aren’t siblings. Their parents just live together. That doesn’t make them anything. Right?

But Nathan needs a new guardian for Dew, the baby water monster he’s been helping. His time with the Holy Beings is running out, and Dew has much more to learn. Nathan plans to ask Mother Water Monster for a mentor for Dew. Not just any mentor either– Yitoo Bii’aanii. Yitoo is Dew’s older sister, and has been recovering in the Third World for 160 years.

Nathan and Edward are determined to help Dew and Yitoo, but Dew’s training is derailed when Yitoo believes a Modern Enemy is stealing water from the homeland of the Diné peoples.

This story is steeped in Diné history, specifically the Long Walk and era of relocation. Young brilliantly shows how the hurts of the past still affect the people of today. This book takes a courageous look at colonialism, assimilation, climate change, and how all of these issues are connected. Heroes has excellent depictions of grief, both the aftermath of loss and the reverberating effects that continue for a long time.

As always, Young has excellent character development. Edward and Nathan are navigating different issues at different ages, and each are fully developed individuals. As Edward struggles with his mixed heritage and Nathan struggles with losing his ability to interact with the Holy Beings, each boy has a lot on his plate.

This novel handles blended families, and the process of accepting new family members, in a beautiful way. Nathan and Edward’s individual pasts, goals, and methods are as different as can be. Learning to work together is beneficial for each of them.

This is one of those books that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it. It takes root, living rent free in your mind in the best way, as you return to thinking about certain plot elements and characters again and again. Edward’s struggle with his mixed heritage Indigenous identity particularly resonated with me, as I am also mixed heritage Indigenous. The moments Edwards hurts over his identity punctured my own heart, as I have had those same worries and concerns. Edward’s dilemma is one that will resonate with many readers, helping them face their worries head on and walking with them as they do so.

This is one of those books that sets up camp in your heart. The depth of the plot and character development, the setting, the themes, the balance of identity with history and modern life– none of these are small accomplishments on their own, and seeing them flawlessly woven together here makes for one unputdownable book.

Thank you to the author, NetGalley, Heartdrum, and HarperCollins Children’s publishers for an advanced e-ARC such that I could share my honest opinions.

Heroes of the Water Monster will be available May 23, 2023. You can pre-order it here from Bookshop.org. Haven’t read the first book yet? You can order Healer of the Water Monster here. Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org. I will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase.

Looking for more books by Native authors? Check out my Native Voices list on Bookshop.org for more recommendations. And remember to keep an eye on Heartdrum’s releases for consistent excellent Indigenous stories with contemporary Native heroes!

Wado, and happy reading!


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