Where Huntress shines, is in its characters and the space they are given to grow. It is too often that character development is rushed or ill formed, but Lo gets it right here.
Their Kingdom is dying. The seasons aren’t changing and the whole land is in serious trouble. Who can save it? When a mysterious invitation to the Fairy Realm lands on their doorstep, the Kingdom is unsure who to send. The sages, however, have an answer: Kaede, the daughter of a council men, and Taisin a highly gifted safe in training. They will be accompanying the royal family member. But not everything meets the eye and they face challenges they could have never prepared for: such as falling in love.
The true highlight of this book are its characters. They are complex and have unique motivations, especially our two protagonists, Kaede and Taisin. Their motivations are universal: desire and the fear of love lost. But in between are concerns of poverty, of hidden knowledge, and dangerous ambition. Both of our fierce women have tender memories and moments that help establish the relationships in the novel. In a tricky situation, and feeling underprepared, these young adventurers make us empathize with their journey and the depth of their new experiences.
Here she was on this journey to a place that didn’t exist on their maps, and all around unseen things seemed to stare out at them day and night. But there, not two feet away from her, was a girl who made her feel light headed. (147)
Their relationship, while being at the center, is not overdone. Instead, it is complicated, full of duty, ambition, and concern for the future. I enjoyed that their love was merely a part of who they were. However, I found the resolution of their relationship too clean cut, too neat, and thus a little unrealistic given the circumstances (If you’ve read this, please let’s talk about it).
The omniscient point of view allows us to see through both of their eyes, to feel their conflicted emotions, and to experience their fears. Yet it sheds light on the side characters and the missing moments. What I mean by this is that we are treated to glances and moments our protagonists could not possibly have witnessed. Us seeing all, the emotions of the side characters, and snatches of time our two heroines missed, gives us not only an overall picture, but a more well-rounded picture of our side characters.
The World Building and History
The world building within is rich, but at times very expansive, and others limited. I was missing a consistent, almost dream like, quality with fantasy. It was almost like watching a television show with breaks in between. Huntress shows us mere hints: a kingdom is terrible economic trouble, covered up knowledge, and class differences. All of these deserve a book in and of itself. This book is a prequel to Lo’s Ash. I’ve never read Ash so perhaps I am missing out on many references. Never fear. You can absolutely enjoy this book without the other as it is a full enough book on its own. But it is there I have a minor qualm: the pacing at the end.
This fleeting world: Life passes as quickly as the morning star, as a rumble of thunder, a gust of wind over the grasslands. This fleeting life: brief as a spark, ephemeral as a dream. Soon enough we are ghosts upon the cloud. (162)
For the most part of the novel, we enjoy Taisin and Kaede’s quest to the Fairy Realm. During this quest we are able to get to know the characters, witness their faults, and experience their ups and downs. Yet at the very end, it jumbles into one as the whole plot is neatly tied up. This abrupt change, especially at the very end – without spoilers I cannot say more than that – felt disjointed and cramped. I needed it to be pages longer, to feel that same luxuriating space, and to feel a sense of conclusion, instead of a hasty get away.
Overall, I enjoyed Huntress immensely. One of its major themes is the nature of power, ambition, and fear in a variety of different forms. These types of conflict are my absolute favorite and this book does them well. It leaves many mysteries within this grander story and a few questions at the end. Within a colorful world, were a whole crew of vivid characters, even those whose presence lasted an instant. If you enjoy characters that reminded me of Tamora Pierce, in a world of fairies, with the weight on their shoulders, this is most definitely for you.
Would you choose to have magical powers?
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