Author: Malinda Lo
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Publisher: Little, Brown (US)/ Atom (UK)
Publication date: April 5 / May 5
Hardcover/ Paperback: 384 pages
Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.
To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.
The exciting adventure prequel to Malinda Lo’s highly acclaimed novel Ash is overflowing with lush Chinese influences and details inspired by the I Ching, and is filled with action and romance.
Stand alone or series: This is a prequel to Ash and is set in the same world but both books are stand alone novels.
How did I get this book: Bought
Why did I read this book: Because I loved Ash, the first book by Malinda Lo. Plus, THAT COVER! And also, I totally admire Lo’s immensely for speaking out for Diversity in YA.
I was a huge fan of Malinda Lo’s first book, Ash (understatement of the century – that book made my top 10 of 2009) and when I heard that she was writing Huntress, a book set in the same world and about the origins of the King’s Huntress, I KNEW I would have to read it. And Huntress doesn’t disappoint. Although I didn’t think it was as awesome as Ash, it is still a wonderful coming of age novel as well as a beautiful love story between two cool heroines.
I am racking my brains on how I could describe this novel in a way that would help me get across what I loved about it and what I didn’t love about it in a way that is reasonably smart. My attempt would go something like this: I would say that this book could be seen as a three-part novel. One part Coming of Age, one part Romance and one part Quest/Fantasy and this is how I felt about it: this book is Two-Part awesome and One-Part disappointing.
The majority of the novel takes place on the road, as the protagonists travel to meet the Fairy Queen. The plot at this point moves slowly because it is shaped by the characters’ arcs. I quite liked this because it allows the characters to grow. But in terms of details of the world where the story is set (where is this Kingdom exactly? Why is the council of Sages hiding things and being so secretive? So on and so forth), it seems that there were things that were never developed enough. I do appreciate the fact that this novel is set in the same world as Ash and I never felt when I read that novel that the world was undeveloped. However the tone of both novels is very different: Ash was a fairytale retelling that focused on the life of one girl. Whereas here in Huntress we have Kingdoms and politics and a lot more that needed to be more fleshed out, I think. At least, for me.
Not to mention that there is a huge change in pacing in the last quarter of the novel. The story builds up tension slowly but then all of a sudden things happen at speed of light to the point where there is a marked difference. The BIG showdown, happened so fast, I almost missed it. The consequences of that showdown are thrown around as though it was so obvious, the reader should have know it was going to happen and then there is an almost second ending that felt completely tacked in. On that note, I love Malinda Lo’s writing, I think it flows beautifully but I have to say that there was a bit too much of head hopping. Whilst the two girls are the main protagonists and we spend most of the time inside their heads, there would be moments where we would jump right into the mind of some other secondary character for about two seconds, then off again. It is not that it was confusing – it was simply unnecessary.
So, as you can see, the Fantasy aspects of the novel didn’t work for me so well. Thank God for the awesome characters and the romance – because THIS is where the book came through for me. I LOVED all the characters in this book but most especially I loved the two girls Kaede and Taisin and each of their arcs – how they started separately, then combined and then…well. I will leave for you to find out.
This is a coming of age story for both of them as they grow up and grow into the women they will become, but also how each of them deals with duty and family. Taisin is shaped by her dream of being a sage, of always knowing what she wanted to be. Kaede on the other hand, is not sure of her place in the world but once she realised what she loves doing, she embraces it but not without some angst.
And then there is the romance, which was cool and sweet and hot and everything I love in my romance reading. Developing slowly, progressing from friendship and attraction to love. I can’t begin to express how awesome their relationship was and how I rooted for the two of them and how I absolutely, completely admired the author for taking the route she took in the end. It was realistic and believable and spoke wonders about the strength of these two women as characters. Not to mention, the fact that two women falling in love with each other is a non-issue in this world. Even though I had huge problems with the plotting and the execution of the Fantasy elements of the novel, I am a character-driven reader through and through and because the characters worked so well for me, I enjoyed reading it very much.
So, in conclusion, as I clumsily tried to say, this book was to me, two-part awesome and one-part not-so-much. Overall, it means that I did really enjoy reading it and loved parts of it (the romance OMG) but I don’t think fell in love wholeheartedly with it as I did with Ash. I feel though, that this has more to do with me as a reader than with the book itself. It means: depending on what you are looking for and are expecting from this read, you might just find it completely and totally wonderful.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
She saw a beach made of ice, and she felt her heart breaking.
The ground where she stood was frozen white, but twenty feet away, cold blue ocean lapped at the jagged shore. Someone there was climbing into a rowboat, and she knew that she loved this person. She was certain of it in the same way that one is instantly aware of the taste of sweetness in a drop of honey. But she was afraid for this person’s life, and the fear raised a cold sweat on her skin and caused a sick lurch in her stomach, as though she were on a ship during a violent storm.
She opened her mouth to call the rower back — she couldn’t bear the loss; it would surely cripple her — and at that moment she realized she could hear nothing. All around her was an eerie, unnatural silence. There was no sound from the ocean. She could not even hear herself breathing. She felt her tongue shaping the syllables of the person’s name, but she did not recognize what the name was until the rower turned to face her. Kaede.
The rower was Kaede, and she looked at her with dark, troubled eyes. She pushed back the hood of her cloak, and loose strands of black hair whipped around her pale face. There were spots of red on her wind-roughened cheeks; her lips parted as though she would speak. But then Kaede reached down into the boat and lifted out a long oar, dipping it into the azure sea to propel the small craft away from the shore. The droplets of water falling from the blade of the oar were tiny stars, extinguished as quickly as they burned into being. The boat cut through the water, leaving the shore behind, and just before she could see where the boat was headed, the vision ended.
She was wrenched out of the icy landscape and back into her body, where she was sitting in the empty practice hall, alone on her cushion.
She opened her eyes, blinking against the light of the single candle she had lit on the altar. Her heart was pounding, and there was an acrid taste in her mouth. Her hands, folded in her lap, were trembling and chilled. A trickle of sweat ran from her temple down her cheek.
She drew her knees up and hugged them close, burying her face in the crook of her elbow, and because there was no one to hear her, she let out the sob that reared up in her throat. The sound echoed in the vaulted ceiling of the practice room, and for once she gave in to the overwhelming feelings rushing through her. She felt gutted. She felt powerless.
She had never seen so clearly before, and her teachers would praise her for it. But she felt no satisfaction, for she could not rejoice in the vision of someone she apparently loved departing on a journey to her death.
You can read the full chapter (and chapters 2 and 3) online HERE.
Rating: 7 – Very Good
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