Huntress, Malinda Lo Review from 10th October, 2010
Huntress is a sort of prequel to Ash, but it is set a long time before it. If I remember rightly, this story is mentioned in Ash. Anyway, this story is about the journey of six people: Con, the son of the king; Taisin, a young woman who wants to be a celibate sage; Kaede, a classmate of Taisin’s with no talent for the magic; and Shae, Pol and Tali, their guards. They have to see the Fairy Queen, during a period when nature has gone out of balance.
The story of the journey itself isn’t really unique, but the love between Kaede and Taisin is. I loved the fact that the book treats them in pretty much the same way as a male-female couple is usually treated in fantasy stories — I mean, that it seems natural and inevitable that they should be drawn together, and that their desire for each other is palpable and not treated euphemistically. Okay, there’s nothing explicit, but the physicality of their relationship is there.
It’s also easy to read, a quick read, and the situations and emotions ring reasonably true. The emotional involvement that was lacking in Ash was definitely there, for me, which made it that much more enjoyable.
I really wish books like this had existed when I was younger. I hope the arrival on the market of books like Ash and Huntress isn’t just a one off.
I’ve been meaning to read this since it first came out, and at one point I even had an ARC of it, I think for the UK release. I ended up grabbing it and the sequel on our way to the airport, and read it on the flight. Which was possibly not a good idea given all the plane crashes at the start, heh. I don’t quite buy the explanation given in the book for that — genetically manipulated birds all somehow released at once and in multiple places worldwide? Seems a bit of a hole in the story there.
Still, if you elide the science stuff (e.g. I’m also not sure introducing alien DNA via mitochondrial DNA would have reliable effects), this is still pretty fun. It’s definitely YA, with the preoccupations of teenage readers fairly front and centre. What stands out is less the plot and more the characters. Even then, it’s not characterisation I’m talking about, but character diversity. The main character is, for instance, actually bisexual! And she actually initially read to me as ace, maybe grey-A, because she doesn’t seem to grok attraction as a general thing.
So that’s pretty cool. I’m not overwhelmed by plot and character, though there are some great moments — Reese’s mother, for example, and her adult life going on in the background — but it’s enjoyable and easy to read.
This is a lovely retelling of the Cinderella fairytale. It keeps a very fairytale-like tone, so at times it doesn’t go as deeply into what happens or people’s feelings as I would like, but there are beautiful descriptions and it’s very easy to read. It’s exciting to read a version of the story in which part of the love story is between two women.
I liked the changes to the story as I knew it — Sidhean as the fairy godmother, and the element of actually having to pay for what you get from the fairies. I loved that the prince wasn’t all that important. I liked that the young stepsister, Clara, is kind of likeable.
I wish the story spent more time on the love story, on really making the reader feel it — both the strange attraction between Aisling and Sidhean, and the relationship between Aisling and Kaisa. I think this book would have really bowled me over if it had been like that.
As it is, it’s fun, and often lovely.
Later edit: So, the homophobic reviews of this book irritate the hell out of me, and upset me, too. I think it’s important that people write books like this, taking back traditionally heterosexual stories and finding places for ourselves within them.