Paranormal Young Adult
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Received from publisher for review
Being a sage, Taisin is able to see visions of the future. In one such vision she sees a young woman named Kaede departing in a boat across an ice cold sea and feels a searing sense of loss in watching her go. When she informs her mentors of what she's seen, they cast the oracle stones and determine that Taisin and Kaede, along with the King's son, must be the ones to venture to the realm of the Fairy Queen in answer to her summons.
En route, Taisin and Kaede begin to see how just how much their world is changing. The sun no longer shines. The crops no longer grow. And strange creatures, neither fully human nor fay, are emerging from the woods dividing the human territory from that belonging to the Fairy Queen.
While making their treacherous journey to hopefully restore their lands to their former glory with the help of the fay, Taisin begins to struggle with the feelings for Kaede she experienced in her vision. A sage takes a vow of chastity and must forgo a life of love in order to fulfill her purpose, but Kaede is coming to mean more to Taisin than anyone ever has before. When the Queen reveals to them the way to re-establish the balance in their world, both young women are sure they won't survive. And if they do, Taisin will have to choose between the life she's always wanted, and the new life she's not sure she can let go.
Dark and beautifully told, Huntress takes us on a journey of magic and fantasy, but woven through those elements is a cool grimness that makes us question if the end destination and outcome is truly worth the pain and loss lining the weaving road to get there. While we are certainly involved with our small band of travelers as they embark on a mission to save their world from its slow descent into death, this is not necessarily a story that will stand out in our memory once its covers are closed. We enjoy our time with sages, humans, and fay, exploring the different relationships between the characters, but our connection is tenuous–definitely present and noticeable yet it doesn't pulse with emotion and feeling. Huntress is a story easily devoured in a short amount of time as a result of the skillful combination of love and loss, duty and need, and mortality and immortality, however, it doesn't haunt us the way certain other stories do.
The relationship between Taisin and Kaede is one of the stronger aspects of this tale, their quiet affection for one another evolving into something more profound at a tantalizingly slow pace, making us hyperaware of each girl's every movement as they dance a circle around one another. The only minor drawback is with Taisin's precognitive abilities, her vision of Kaede and the emotions attached to it occurring prior to their meeting, and so we are left wondering if that attraction we're so wishing would solidify into a relationship is a result of true feelings or merely a resignation to her gift and the acceptance that she's supposed to feel that way. Despite that very small issue (which may not even be problematic for some), Kaede and Taisin enter into a sweet romance where the tension between them is potent and powerful, causing our lips to curl into a smile at their continued hesitancy and uncertainty even though their connection to one another seems so obvious to us.
The mission Taisin, Kaede, and company undertake is long and riddled with enough difficulties to keep us anxiously flipping the pages to see what next lies in wait for them, but for all the buildup the conflict seems to get resolved fairly quickly. For three hundred pages we push forward with these characters in search of the Fairy Queen and the promise of her answers, and in the last sixty or so pages the villain is tracked down, defeated, and we are then sent on another very quick side expedition which is also wrapped up with equal ease and swiftness. The suspense and apprehension doesn't seem to be evenly distributed in this tale, all the anxiety as to who will survive the task assigned to them happening during our epic travels to the realm of the Fairy Queen, and then that beautiful uneasiness rapidly subsides just at the story's climax.
Overall, Huntress is well-written and engaging despite the somewhat lopsided nature of the journey versus the resolution, keeping us intrigued while reading but also not fully consuming us mentally or emotionally.