Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: Huntress

Malinda Lo
Paranormal Young Adult
384 pages
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Available Now
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.

Rating: 3.5/5


  1. Have you read Ash? I can't remember if this is a sequel to Ash or companion novel or completely stand-alone.
    Interesting that you have to wonder whether their relationship is the result of true affection or predetermined destiny. I kind of like the idea of keeping it open for the reader to ponder.

  2. I really enjoyed Huntress. I completely agree that Kaede and Taisin's relationship was one of the best parts (doubts about where their attraction comes from aside--and those doubts you mentioned certainly crossed my mind!). I loved how slowly and sweetly it developed!
    Fabulous review! :)

  3. I have to read Ash and The Huntress. I like the fact that Taisin and Kaede's relationship evolves slowly, unlike the insta-love we find in so many other books. Thanks for the wonderful review!

  4. Alison - I haven't read Ash, I believe this is a prequel to that one but it stands alone as a separate story:)

    Lauren - I enjoyed it as well, it was just a case for me where I liked everything but didn't really love anything, if that makes sense.

    Misha - I really liked Taisin and Kaede's relationship, the break from the insta-love was refreshing:)

  5. I want to read this book. I think it's more of a companion to Ash. I think this story takes place several hundred years before Ash takes place. Great review. It sounds like the pacing is a bit uneven, but still a descent read.

  6. I have been intrigued with Huntress ever since I first saw the cover, but it sounds as if the story fall a tad short of being a must read. I do like the idea that for once a relationship unfolds slowly over the course of the story, this definitely seems much more realistic that the love at first sight love we so frequently get in YA. Great review!

  7. I've been curious about this book (and Ash) for a long while now. The quite romance sounds so sweet, and the hint of doubt as to the nature of the feelings, whether they are authentic or not, just adds to my curiosity.

  8. Najela - It's definitely a decent read! I enjoyed it, I just wasn't wowed by it.

    Jan - That's a good way of putting it! A good read, but not a MUST read for me:)

    Missie - I really liked the romance part of it, and I liked the way it ended with things a bit more open rather than spelled out for us.

  9. This is exactly how I felt about "Ash", Jenny. I liked reading the story, the characters, and the romance but nothing that I remembered long after I finished reading the book.

  10. This sounds like I would really like the romance and can I say by reading comments, I am thrilled others like the slow build too. The instant thing is hard to swallow at times.

    Great review Jenny!

  11. This sounds like the Wizard of Oz or a typical "Hero's Journey" story, which is fine. However, sometimes a reader is looking for more of a step up or something that makes the story/journey memorable and/or really unique.

  12. Rummanah - Exactly! I even had to look up the characters' names to write the review because I'd forgotten:)

    Felicia - I love the slow build. I'm a huge fan of tension, sometimes it's better for me than the actual romance:)

    Pam - That's exactly right, it was fun to read but it's not one I would rush to read again and again:)

  13. I have this one sitting on my desk... but I'm NEVER freaking compelled to pick it up. *sigh* I'm lazy.

  14. Great review, Jenny! I've seen quite a few negative reviews for this one, and I have to admit that it just doesn't sound like my kinda thing. I like the sound of the slow-burn romance though. I've read far too many books lately featuring the dreaded insta-love!!

  15. Good to know that I can read this as a stand alone since I haven't read Ash yet. Don't know which one I'll pick up first but both books sound very good.

  16. I couldn't get into this one, but I am glad you were able to finish and enjoy it. I just don't think it's for me, but I might check out Ash, b/c I've read some great reviews for that one. I will admit that Lo is a talented writer...I just couldn't connect with the characters. As usual, a great review, Jenny! :)

  17. Ashley - It can probably wait a little longer - it's worth a read but I wasn't blown away by it.

    Leanna - Thanks! I had fun reading it, it just didn't set itself apart from a lot of other books for me:)

    Jenny - I haven't read Ash either, and I didn't have any trouble understanding the world.

    Christina - It took me a little while but I did like Taisin and Kaede. I just wanted a little more from this one I think:)

  18. It does sound good :D
    Aha stand alone, I have heard about Ash, and sometimes it is so hard to know if books work alone or not

  19. I'm reading this one now. Loving it so far, and I very much did love Ash as well! Great review, Jenny! :)

  20. I think some of the unevenness is what I did like about the story. Journeys aren't all evenly distributed and, for me, it just seemed like the story was bound that way. However, even after saying that... I do get what you mean and at the same time I liked it, I didn't as well (what can I say? I'm uneven! lol).

    This is a stand alone. It's only loosely related to Ash. Ash is the retelling of Cinderella. Huntress is it's own tale. The fae are from the same "group" and you understand why "Huntress" is a title, but that's all. :)

  21. I wasn't really a fan of the last book I read by her. I think I'll past on this one. Nice review Jenny!

  22. This sounds really interesting. I've never heard of it or Ash. Well, I've heard of lots of books called Ash, but not one by her. I'll have to put this one on the list. You're always adding to my list with those great reviews Jenny. STOP!!

    Just kidding,

  23. I have a copy of this one still to read. I wasn't really sure what to expect from it, but it sounds very different from what I normally read. Seeing as how I'm trying to move out of my comfort zone a bit, I'll have to pick this one up soon. Thanks for the review!

  24. I love the cover of this one and since I haven't read any of Lo's work yet, I figured I'd wait for reviews. The story sounds pretty good so I think I'll keep this one in mind for when I go to the library. Thanks, Jenny!

  25. Blodeuedd - I didn't read Ash prior to this one, so it definitely stood on it's own:)

    Kat - Looking forward to your thoughts!

    Melissa - Very true, journeys are definitely not always evenly distributed, I guess I was just thrown off by the ease of the final battle after all they went through and then the random side journey to the unicorn and how easy that ended up being. Still enjoyed it though:)

    Savy - Thanks! This was my first by her and while I liked it, I think I'll hold off on reading Ash.

    Heather - Haha, I get ideas every time I visit another blog. Blogging is just dangerous to the bank account in general:)

    Nikki - This was a very different read, but I liked that about it. There were some things that bothered me, but overall I thought it was good:)

    Zahida - I adore the cover as well, it's so simple and pretty.

  26. You might have answered this above...but do you have to read ASH first? I love the cover! It's nice to have books that feature ethnic and LGBT characters! This book definitely sounds different. Thanks for your honest review :)

  27. You have me really curious about the slow romance. Such a rare thing in this flood of insta-love storming YA. The drawn out quest with the lame/easily wrapped up ending is so common in fantasy books that I pretty much expect it at this point. Even The Lord of the Rings was pages and pages of epic struggle and then, eh, toss the ring in the pit and we're done!