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Malinda Lo's Huntress takes place in the same world as Ash (my review here), only several hundred years earlier.

Our main characters are Kaede and Taisin, students at The Academy, where girls go to learn to be sages. Taisin has never wanted anything but to be a sage. Kaede has never even managed the simplest blessing, but she doesn't want to go home to be married off for political advantage. The land is in a state of constant winter, and the king has been invited to visit the Fairy Queen. Instead, he sends his son, Con, along with Taisin, Kaede, and a small batch of guards, to accept her invitation.

I said early on that the point of view issues in the book might make me throw it across the room (metaphorically if not literally - I'm not really much of a book thrower, and I did buy it in hardback) before I finished it. It seems at first as if Lo's just doing a bad job of switching between Kaede and Taisin's povs, but instead she sticks mostly to Kaede and Taisin but includes varying things in other people's povs. What it really reads like, especially at first, is that she didn't trust herself to get across everything she wanted us to get without including someone else's pov. I'm not sure if it actually gets better as the book goes along or if I was just so enraptured by the story that it stopped bothering me. I thought while reading that it should have alternated between Kaede and Taisin, but the more I've thought about it, the more I think the book should have been entirely in Kaede's pov. She is the Huntress of the title, after all, and it's her story more than anyone else's.

You may remember that while I loved Ash, I thought she hadn't quite either followed through on the story she set up or set up the story she ended up with, and this book has some of the same problem. Early in the story, someone tells the story of how unicorns dispense justice, and if you go to be judged by the unicorn and it lets you live, you're innocent. In the next book, I'm going to pay more attention to the folk and fairy tales the characters tell each other, because when Kaede did go off to be judged by the unicorn and ask for its blood to save the Fairy Queen, I was surprised by it. I don't think Lo quite set up the depth of Kaede's feeling - she feels guilty, yes, but I didn't expect her to go off expecting to be killed by the unicorn - and the unicorn mythology wasn't enough of a piece of the character's world for it to be an expected element of the story.

Now, that's a lot of critique for a book that I loved, because, yes, I did love the book. I was completely absorbed by their travels, the people - and things - they meet along the way, and Kaede and Taisin's relationship. Just as in Ash, the relationship is the strongest part of the story. (I'm almost hoping that Lo will write a book in which she forgoes the adventure plot entirely and focuses solely on the relationship.) Lo continues to have an incredible talent for writing tentative relationships that border on awkward without being painful or embarrassing to read. I'm not sure I can name another writer who can do that. I also liked the way the ending is bittersweet. Kaede and Taisin don't get to live happily ever after, but it has nothing to do with the fact that they're both women. It's because Taisin has never wanted to be anything but a sage, and sages are celibate, and it's because Kaede has other work to do. (Namely, becoming the first King's Huntress, which is an interesting destiny in that it's only hinted at - no one ever names her Huntress in the book - and gleaned from context if you've read Ash.)

My greatest wish is for Malinda Lo to be one of those writers who really learns to write by the third book. Ash and Huntress are both good, with moments that are exquisite, but I think Lo has the potential to be truly great.

If anyone wants to read Huntress, leave me a comment, and you can have my copy.
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rsadelle: (Default)
Ruth Sadelle Alderson


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