Pages: 384 (hardcover)
Published: April 2010 by Little, Brown
Recommended for: fans of Ash and those seeking action-packed fantasy
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.
Malinda Lo's Ash is one of my all-time favorite books, so of course I was eager to get my hands on her second novel, set in the same world as Ash. Huntress also has Chinese influences and involves the Fae, and has something of a medieval setting, though we get the impression it takes place some time before Ash and is more of a companion novel than a prequel. Malinda Lo's writing is beautiful and luscious as always-- few authors can measure up to her gorgeous use of the English language, nor her compelling characters.
Kaede and Taisin are two very different girls, and it's clear from the beginning that they're destined to be together: they shine much brighter together than apart. They sort of balance each other-- like Yin and Yang, to use a metaphor from the book's I Ching-esque influences. Taisin was born a poor farmer's daughter, but for years she's trained to be a Sage: skilled in magic, peaceful, and completely celibate-- which could be a problem, considering her immediate and powerful attraction to Kaede. Taisin, who has visions, experiences a powerful one of Kaede-- who she hardly knows-- rowing away from a silver beach towards a brilliant sparkling castle on a distant island. Taisin is wary of her feelings towards Kaede from the start, seeing as she knows Kaede will leave her and that they cannot possibly be together, anyway, due to Taisin's desire to become a Sage. Where Taisin is withdrawn, Kaede is open and down-to-earth, especially considering she's actually the daughter of an important adviser to the King. She was my favorite of the girls: so strong while still being emotional, so far from heartless despite the very difficult decisions she has to make during her journey.
As in Ash, we don't get to see as much of the Fae as I would've liked, but what we do see is intriguing, eerie, beautiful... more than a little sinister. Malinda Lo writes faeries fantastically-- I much prefer hers to the kinder, flowery faeries in YA books like Wings or The Faerie Path. The romance and the threat of the Fae is suspenseful and compelling, and there are a few great subplots, too: I liked the little bit of romance between Prince Con, who accompanies the girls on their diplomatic journey to the Faerie Queen's city, and the female guard, Shae. My one complaint is the third-person omniscient point of view... it constantly skips around from one person's head to another, which got to be pretty annoying. I would have preferred the chapters to alternate between Kaede and Taisin's POVs, since most of the time we were in their heads, anyway. Overall, awesome read-- really enjoyable, with a great storyline and lovable characters. I can't wait to see what Malinda Lo comes up with next!
Plot: 4/5Overall Rating: 5/5