Author: Malinda Lo
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
May Contain Spoilers
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.
Malinda Lo’s Huntress takes place in the same world as Ash, but the events take place centuries in the past. This is very much a stand alone novel, and though the characters are mentioned in Ash, they do not have an active role in that book. In Huntress, Kaede and Taisin are sent on a quest to bring spring back to their world, and end the darkness that is closing in on their kingdom. The winter seems endless, crops are not growing, and people are starving. A mysterious invitation to visit the fairy court adds another piece to the puzzle of a world out of sync, and the two young women are tasked with putting things right again.
Huntress is a fantasy novel where the characters are sent on a quest. I enjoy these types of stories, because there is a diverse cast of characters who have to learn to get along with each other. If they don’t, they don’t have much chance of success, and the odds of them living a long and happy life are pretty much nil. Both Kaede and Taisin are students at the Academy, but that is where their similarities end. Kaede is hiding from her family and the burden of her expected obligations, while Taisin is a gifted sage in training. The two barely know each other, and they have little in common. Kaede’s father is the King’s right-hand man, and she has known a life of privilege and wealth. She wants more out of life than the political marriage her father has planned for her, and she doesn’t hesitate to make her will known.
Taisin comes from a family of farmers, and all her life she has longed to be a sage. She is the most gifted student the Academy has seen in decades, and it looks like her dreams will become a reality. Except for the vision she keeps having about Kaede, where Taisin sends her off to her death. Taisin can’t shake her feelings of dread and grief. She knows she is seeing the future, and in this future, she is desperately in love with Kaede, but in order to save the kingdom and bring balance back to the world, she must sacrifice the person she loves the most.
The journey to the fairy kingdom is perilous, and comes at a great cost. Deadly encounters and death occur suddenly, tripping up our group of intrepid travellers. While full of danger and tension, there were times when I felt that the journey bogged down the rest of the plot. I guess I can only take so many times of the characters setting up camp, starting a fire, and then packing up their supplies again the next morning. The last Harry Potter book soured me on stories with camping sequences, because too much time was devoted to the particulars of that activity. And I hate camping. I admit it!
There is one aspect of the romance between Kaede and Taisin that didn’t ring true for me, and that was Kaede’s overly shy demeanor. She is such a bold girl, who doesn’t hesitate to let her powerful father, or even the King, know what’s on her mind. She was so timid and awkward with Taisin, to almost the end of the book, and that seemed out of character for her. Taisin’s personality worked much better for me. She has been having visions of sending Kaede to her death, so it made perfect sense that she would try to keep herself distant from her companion, and that she would hesitant to return Kaede’s advances.
Likable characters and a compelling fantasy world make Huntress a satisfying read. I would love to spend more time getting to know the Fairy Queen and her magical city.
Review copy provided by publisher