Review: “Hunter,” Mercedes Lackey

Pros: Wish fulfillment fantasy
Cons: Wish fulfillment fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5

Joyeaux Charmand is a Hunter. She can wield magic, and summon an extremely unusual pack of otherworldly hounds, in order to fight against creatures called “Othersiders”. Ever since the Othersiders started coming into our world, human civilization has contracted into more defensible areas. The monastery where Joy lives relies on secrecy–all Hunters are expected to go to Apex, a major city, to aid in its defense, while the monastery teaches and cares for Hunters of their own.

Joy is an orphan, but her uncle is a very powerful man in Apex, and he summons her to the city. She learns very quickly that she has no idea what she’s getting into–in Apex, Hunters are reality show stars. Cameras follow them nearly 24/7, and each one has his or her own channel where people can watch what they’re doing. Luxuries like larger quarters have to be earned by being high in the rankings. Joy has no interest in being competitive with the other Hunters–she wants to work together to better protect the city.

Soon Joy and her new friends figure out that something very strange is going on in Apex–creatures that shouldn’t be able to get past the levels of barrier around the city are finding their way in anyway. The Hunters are going to have to use every weapon in their arsenal–from grenades to magic–in order to keep Apex safe.

 

Mercedes Lackey excels at the teenage wish fulfillment fantasy. Those stories have their place and when you’re in the right mood it’s like nothing else will do. I mention it because if you aren’t in the right mood, you’ll want to avoid Hunter. It’s a reader preference thing. It helps that Joy isn’t a blatant Mary Sue character (MS characters highly correlate with wish fulfillment fantasies–some writers don’t understand that we want to see a character struggle and then win on their merits, not the author’s say-so).

There are hints that there might be more to the Othersiders than humans realize, and I’m hoping that’s a hint that there’ll be sequels to come. I like the blend of urban fantasy/science fiction that Lackey has going on here–Joy is proficient in both magic and weaponry, and can effectively make use of anything from an AK47 to a hand grenade. She’s had a lot more training than anyone except her uncle realizes, which puts her ahead of other people’s expectations. Naturally she makes an enemy out of the top-dog/bully character, and wins over the others around her. She has to put some work into that, however, again rescuing her from the MS danger. She isn’t perfect, and she definitely needs help from those around her as is appropriate to the danger level.

The tension in Hunter is palpable, and the danger feels real. The book is told in the first person by Joy, but I thought that worked out surprisingly well. She has a lot of personality, and it makes even pages-long monologues interesting to read. The story properly lowers the amount of info being conveyed as the action and danger portions of the novel ratchet up. This is one of those extremely rare cases where I enjoyed reading what would have otherwise been a bald info-dump.

Here’s hoping that Lackey puts out more novels that follow in Hunter’s footsteps!

NOTE:Review ebook (uncorrected proof) provided free by publisher for this review.
Expected publication date: Sep 1 2015

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