Monday, May 30, 2011
Huntress - Malinda Lo
Title: Huntress (Companion novel to Ash)
Author: Malinda Lo
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2011 (Hardcover)
Length: 371 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: May 25, 2011
Finished: May 27, 2011
Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn't shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people's survival hangs in the balance.
To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls' destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.
The exciting adventure prequel to Malinda Lo's highly acclaimed novel Ash is overflowing with lush Chinese influences and details inspired by the I Ching, and is filled with action and romance.
Huntress is a companion novel to the author's first book, Ash, released back in 2009; so it takes place in the same universe, but in a different time period and with different characters. I adored Ash when i read it last year, so I knew Huntress would blow me away before I even read it.
In the world of Huntress, set hundreds of years before Ash, things are out of balance, and the humans believe the solution lies with the fae (called the Xi). When the king receives an invitation to the Xi queen's court at Taninli, he sends his son, Con in his place. Traveling with the prince are several guards, as well as Taisin and Kaede, two 17-year-old girls from the Academy of Sages, whom have been prophesied to accompany them on their journey. Kaede (I know it's supposed to be pronounced Kay-dee, but I'm used to the Japanese pronunciation Kah-eh-day) is the daughter of the advisor to the king, an upper class girl who is facing an arranged marriage she does not want, as well as a career at the Academy that she is not suited for. Taisin is the daughter of farmers, admitted to the Academy based on her amazing magical talent. Kaede is tough and spunky, having grown up with a slew of older brothers as well as Prince Con. Taisin is much more reserved and proper, who blushes at almost everything, which I found adorable.
The book can be divided into two sections in terms of plot: the journey leading up to Taninli (which is almost 3/4 of the whole book), and the events that happen after Taninli. Most books that focus so heavily on the journey aspect tend to lose my attention fairly quickly since I usually just want things to progress to the main point, but this one was different. The events in the journey leading up to Taninli are so important for character development (plus they do contribute to the plot) that I often forgot why they were journeying to Taninli in the first place because I was so caught up in the character interactions (for me this is a good thing). The build-up leading up to Taninli was wonderfully done, but then the events that occur after Taninli happen so quickly that it feels like a let down, plus things felt like they came into place a bit too conveniently.
Huntress and Ash both come under a slight bit of controversy because of the lesbian relationships in them, even though the depiction of the romance isn't offensive or inappropriate. The two main romances in Huntress are Taisin and Kaede, and Con and Shea, and both are very tame and portrayed in a very sweet manner. In terms of the development of the romance itself, I think I liked Ash better in that regard since we get to see the romance develop very clearly, whereas in Huntress I never really got a sense of the point where the two girls fell madly in love with each other to the point where they'd sacrifice their lives for each other, although the author did a really great job in describing the physical reactions of first love (the blushing, the electric tingly feeling when you make contact etc.). Also, I kept thinking that since Taisin had visions of Kaede before she even knew her, I kept thinking that Taisin's feelings of love for Kaede weren't really real since she kind of had that window into the future, so I thought it felt like a cop out on Taisin's end....but I did feel that Kaede's feelings were genuine.
Beautiful and wonderfully written. After reading Huntress, I have to say that I prefer Ash, but that's not to say Huntress isn't worth reading.
Thoughts on the cover:
Awesome. I like the purple accents this time compared to the mauve-y pink from Ash. I'm pretty sure that's Taisin on the cover (both girls were described kind of similarly, so it was hard to tell), and I love the symmetry with the pole/wooden practice sword (couldn't exactly tell what that was supposed to be).