In Malinda Lo’s HUNTRESS, the human world has entered a period of never-ending clouds and rain. With crops dying and people starving, the Kingdom selects two girls to undertake an unprecedented and hazardous journey to find the Fairy Queen in hopes of putting an end to the natural devastation. As the search party travels north and encounters dangerous threats, feelings between the two girls, Kaede and Taisin, begin to grow. With attacks against their party increasing and stakes raised, Kaede and Taisin realize that their new bond may be tested and ultimately destroyed if they are unable to complete their quest.
After reading Lo’s ASH last year and being impressed with her writing, I was eager to read this prequel novel, HUNTRESS. The author’s clear and descriptive writing provides a palpable sense of place and mood throughout the story, especially in the scenes where the characters are travelling through the forest and encountering the Xi. Another strength of the book is its blending of elements from multiple traditions, including the Chinese I CHING and British fairytales. Similar to her first book, HUNTRESS also presents LGBTQ relationships in the context of the story as normal and not worthy of fanfare. The novel also concludes with a finished, complete ending that was unexpected but that showed the depth of understanding and love between the characters involved.
Like my experience with ASH, however, I never found myself invested in the characters of HUNTRESS or their struggles. The relationships were so understated that I never got caught up in them. The prologue also ruined much of the story for me, because I knew from the opening chapter which characters would survive to a certain point and how their relationships would evolve. Because of this, events in the plot lacked immediacy or tension; this was especially true for the relationship between Kaede and Taisin. Due to the significant foreshadowing from the prologue, the pacing also seemed slow, because I was anxious to read ahead to a part where I didn’t know what would happen.
Even though I didn’t overtly enjoy HUNTRESS, I do appreciate the strong LGBTQ and Asian voice that Lo brings to young adult literature through her writing talents. I hope that this book and its predecessor find a warm reception with other readers.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy.