Series: Hunter #1
on Sept. 1, 2015
Genres: Dystopian, Urban Fantasy, YA (Young Adult)
Source: the publisher through NetGalley
Also by this author: The Serpent's Shadow, The Gates of Sleep, Phoenix and Ashes, Home from the Sea, Steadfast, Elemental Magic:, Blood Red, House of Four Winds, The Fairy Godmother, The Lark and the Wren, Owlflight, From a High Tower, Owlsight, Owlknight, Closer to Home, Closer to the Heart, Take a Thief, A Study in Sable
Centuries ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were slashed open allowing hideous fantastical monsters to wreak havoc; destroying entire cities in their wake. Now, people must live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the evil creatures constantly trying to break in. Only the corps of teen Hunters with lightning reflexes and magical abilities can protect the populace from the daily attacks.
Joyeaux Charmand is a mountain girl from a close knit village who comes to the big city to join the Hunters. Joy thinks she is only there to perform her civic duty and protect the capitol Cits, or civilians, but as cameras follow her every move, she soon learns that the more successful she is in her hunts, the more famous she becomes.
With millions of fans watching her on reality TV, Joy begins to realize that Apex is not all it seems. She is forced to question everything she grew up believing about the legendary Hunters and the very world she lives in. Soon she finds that her fame may be part of a deep conspiracy that threatens to upend the protective structure built to keep dark magic out. The monsters are getting in and it is up to Joy to find out why.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
Initially, I wasn’t sure I was going to like Hunter. Despite the fact that there was a certain amount of action, the book seemed to be going slowly… and despite a steady flow of information, I felt more than a little unsure of what was going on. About a fifth of the way into the book, though, things took a decided turn for the better. By the middle, I was immersed in the world and turning pages with interest, even eagerness.
Lackey is always good at world-building, but the world here is different than anything I’ve seen from her before: a dystopian future that is post “the Diseray”. I kept trying to read that as “Disarray”, which made a kind of sense but didn’t really explain anything. The actual explanation of the term, and a clearer sense of what happened to the world, don’t appear until well into the book. Once I had an explanation that made sense (even if it didn’t explain how, only what), I felt more comfortably grounded in the fictional world.
Joy, the main character, is a skilled and highly-trained Hunter. She’s also a country mouse unfamiliar with the politics and culture of Apex, which appears to be the only city of any size left in North America. The fact that she’s the niece of the leader of Apex makes her a potential target, both socially and politically, and she’s unsure of whom to trust. She adapts and learns with surprising rapidity, but never loses the determination, protectiveness, loyalty, and dedication instilled in her by her mountain gurus. She’s willing to put her life on the line to protect the helpless. If you’ve read Lackey’s Valdemar books, Joy and many of her fellow Hunters are similar to Valdemar’s Heralds, albeit with (mostly friendly) internal competition and a lot more celebrity status.
The Hounds – otherworldly creatures who ally with the Hunters to protect humans against other fae/mythological beings – attracted my interest from the start. I’d really like to know more about how and why they attach themselves to certain people, and why they fight against the rest of the otherworldly creatures. The Hunter-Hound partnership is interesting, not least because each Hunter’s Hounds appear different. Like the antagonistic creatures, they’re drawn from a diverse range of human mythologies as well as the author’s imagination.
Several of the other characters are interesting as well–particularly Joy’s mentors, Karly and Knight. I also like the Armorer, but I’m not entirely sure whether he’s trustworthy yet. Joy’s tentative romance with a non-Hunter is cute but largely unnecessary to the plot, at least so far. . . and thankfully, there’s no triangle, though there were one or two subtle hints that one might surface later in the series. (I hope not!)
Lackey’s distinctive pragmatic, straightforward voice and style are evident even in the first-person narration. So are the social messages scattered throughout the book–a trademark of Lackey’s, but appearing with less and less subtlety in her recent books. While I agree with some of them, I do wish Lackey would be a bit more evenhanded in her attitude toward Christians and Christianity. Honestly, many of us are pretty nice people, and much more open and tolerant than she usually portrays us. It’s as though she looks at all the negative things that have been done in the name of religion (especially Christianity) and ignores the positives: the teachings on love, mercy, and forgiveness, and the many people whose lives have demonstrated a commitment to those values. On second thought, I take some of that back, at least where this book is concerned–Knight is a “Christer”, and he is, on the whole, a good, caring, and likable person.
I don’t think the Hunter series will ever rival Valdemar, the Free Bards, the Elemental Masters, or the 500 Kingdoms in my affections. But it’s entertaining, despite the confusing start; enough of Lackey’s storytelling skill shines through to leave me satisfied. I’ll be watching for the sequel with interest.