Tuesday, 19 June 2012

review: Huntress

by Malindo Lo
Little, Brown BFYR, April 5 2011
young adult fantasy
ARC received from publisher (thank you!)

When Kaede and Taisin, two sages-in-training at the Imperial Academy, are called upon to accompany the King’s son to the land of the Xi on an invitation from the Fairy Queen, both are unprepared for the unearthly, unnatural dangers they face on this journey to discover precisely what is at the root of their land’s slow devastation.
Aw yeah. Would you look at that summary? A total elevator one-liner right there, yo. Can I get hired by a publishing house’s marketing department already? :D

The cover:

Love. The centering of the wooden stake (though why is it a stake?) with the asymmetrical hand speaks of power in the solid stillness of the image, and the flowing black hair (an Oriental model!) contrasts fantastically with the snowy landscape. Though the curlicue font is a tad too decorative, it still achieves the desired effect of being girly yet strong, because of course those two adjectives are not mutually exclusive.

The book:

High fantasy has distinctive trademarks, and description is one of them. Malinda Lo takes it to the extreme by opening each chapter with a setting descriptor, which gets old quickly. An omniscient point-of-view with repeated diving into various characters’ heads is another hallmark, and again, the frequency of Lo’s deviation is extreme, so that three characters may be processed in a single chapter. Though sometimes it works, most times it’s just disconcerting.

While we’re still on the subject of writing style, the number of names beginning with T and containing an a, i or both letters proliferated with alarming, near-exponential regularity. And Taisin’s bland name matches her character: we see little development in her character, and as she starts off as somewhat timid, it’s good that Kaede’s physical strength and more reliable confidence in herself helps to counterbalance Taisin.

The journey-to-discovery trope works well in Huntress despite the randomness of attacks and troubles the group faces. An excellently built confrontation with the villain is led up to neatly through Taisin’s visions, enough so that one wishes for a longer battle versus Ms Evil Bad Guy and less of a twist-tacked-on-to-make-the-book-longer.

With the romance between the leads well constructed, Huntress falls in neutral-to-good territory. A worthwhile read for high fantasy readers, but this novel won’t be the one to convert non-fantasy-lovers.

Rating: 3.6 out of 5