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Review of A Snake Falls to Earth by

A Snake Falls to Earth

by Darcie Little Badger

Give me more books like this. Directly. Into. My eyeballs. Please. A Snake Falls to Earth satisfied so many cravings I didn’t know I was having! It’s the perfect blend of humour, compassion, tension, and more. Darcie Little Badger impressed me with Elatsoe, but this novel has truly blown me away. It’s going to be one of my favourites for this year—and this has been a good year of reading for me in general.

Nina is a Lipan Apache girl living in Texas, obsessed with stories and in particular translating one told by her great-great-grandmother prior to death. Oli is a cottonmouth living in the Reflecting World, whereto almost all animal people immigrated after the end of the time when humans and spirits shared Earth. Oli’s compassion for a friend eventually motivates him to make the perilous journey to Earth (hence the title of the book), while Nina tries to understand the magic that seems to be connected both to her grandmother and the family’s land. These two will need to help each other as enemies supernatural and mundane threaten to pull apart their respective families.

The book alternates between Nina’s third-person chapters and Oli’s first-person chapters. Years occasionally pass between chapters, with Nina nine years old at the beginning and sixteen by the time we reach the climax. Little Badger shows Nina growing up, becoming entranced with storytelling and a TikTok/YouTube-like app called St0ryte11er. Her chapters don’t feel any less intimate for being in third person: you can feel her brashness warring with her common sense. She wants to share her great-great-great-grandmother’s stories yet is also intensely aware of the need for privacy and understands that just because an app says something is marked “private” doesn’t make it truly private or safe. She also cares. A lot. About the planet, about her family, and later, about the visitors she hosts from the Reflecting World.

Oli is a beautiful contrasting character. Also very caring and ingenious (though he wouldn’t agree with you), he is so cautious by nature. His coyote friends have to drag him along on minor adventures, but he is most satisfied with basking on his rock and chatting with his toad friend, Ami. For Oli to leave his home—and in particular for a destination as exotic and dangerous Earth—represents a huge change that could only be motivated by the most urgent need.

I loved reading each character’s individual story and seeing Little Badger draw their threads closer with each subsequent chapter. It’s a masterful display of craft. Her writing perfectly balances description, exposition, and narration. Her explanation of the Reflecting World is enough to help me understand how it works in her narrative without becoming too overwhelming. Similarly, we learn a lot about Nina’s family and backstory in a short time; even though her mom is largely absent in person, text messages establish the two’s deep, personal relationship.

I also love how Little Badger has written a story that is deeply, inextricably grounded in Lipan Apache storytelling and knowledge yet also a part of the present/near future. (Nina’s adolescence is in a Texas even more prone to extreme weather than now, and her AI assistant is a bit more useful than the one in my pocket, so this book might be five minutes into the future.) She reminds me of Eden Robinson, who does much the same in her novels like Son of a Trickster. Too often when we talk about stories by contemporary Indigenous authors, we only hype and praise those which focus on the past, especially on the most traumatic episodes of the colonial past. Those stories have value. Yet vibrant new stories have value too, and that’s what Little Badger gives us here. A Snake Falls to Earth is respectful of Lipan Apache traditions while also propelling and projecting those traditions along a future vector. That’s powerful.

Lastly, I didn’t expect to cry at the end. Like, I was enjoying the story and could not put it down—I was very invested in how Nina and Oli would help each other solve their respective problems. But I didn’t realize how emotionally invested I had become until the very end of the book, where I teared up as the two of them said goodbyes. I had spent so much time with them, and through Little Badger’s careful characterization and precise worldbuilding, I felt like I really knew them. I was sad to see the story end yet so relieved by how it was ending.

This is a beautiful book. There’s no other way to describe it. From the writing to the structure to the cover art and design by Mia Ohki and Jade Broomfield, respectively, this book is beautiful. I’m so happy I finally picked it up off my shelf to read it this summer.

A Snake Falls to Earth is everything a second novel should be, building on the success of Little Badger’s first novel while also showcasing the growth of her storytelling style. I’m excited to see what she brings us next.


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