Review of HUNTRESS by MALINDA LO
(review based on an advance reading copy)
HUNTRESS takes place in the same world as ASH, but many centuries earlier. The Fae have that familiar mysterious, eerie taste, so when the Fairy Queen extends an invitation to the king to visit her in her city, Tanlili, many question her intentions. Instead, a group of representatives go in the king's place, including his son, the prince, along with our two heroines, fellow students Taisin and Kaede.
Lo takes an unusual, though not unheard of, approach to this story. In the first chapter, Taisin has a vision that reveals the ending, or at least part of it. Yes, this technique did detract from the suspense of the slow-paced journey. However, the story builds to a beautiful ending, both original and real, heartbreaking and heartwarming, and possibly more impacting when one adds Taisin's original vision to the equation.
Certain themes - love, choice, sacrifice, ambition - would remain the same even if Lo had edited out the spoiler vision near the beginning. However, her approach coaxes out new themes, predominantly what all prophecies ask in one way or another: fate vs. choice, destiny vs. will. Does the vision show the inevitable, does it warn Taisin of a fate she fears so that she may avoid that destiny, or does it push her towards the future the vision depicts?
The perspective threw me for quite a few chapters. In retrospect, the viewpoint is omniscient, but the frequent slips from one person to another within chapters jolted me. The story alternates between Kaede and Taisin's perspectives, but every now and then the viewpoint slides into another person for as little as one sentence or paragraph, which almost always made me stumble and re-read.
One other detail confused me. Call it reader error, but I made an assumption about the book that befuddled me all the way until the end when I realized my misinterpretation. Both the title and the fact that I've read ASH led me to believe this a story of the origins of the first huntress. And, yes, it is. However, if you're searching for that aspect early on, don't. That connection won't fall into place until well near the end. I expected we would meet the huntress on page one and follow her exploits in that position, but in actuality we follow her transformation into her future self, the woman who becomes the huntress on the final page.
The story definitely hinges on its own ending, but it's a worthwhile read with a lovely, rewarding finale.