A couple of my friends in the blogosphere are really keen on Malinda Lo, particularly Engie @ Musings From Neville’s Navel. I read Ash a couple of years ago and, while I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite hit the spots for me, but I’d been meaning to seek out Huntress for a while. Charley bought it in a charity shop while we were in Aberdeen together last summer, which made me want to read it more, and when I came across it in a charity shop myself, I nabbed a copy and gave it a read.
Like Ash, Huntress was an enjoyable and diverse read that still somehow failed to miss the exact spots I was hoping it would hit. There wasn’t much I could particularly identify as wrong, but it just wasn’t quite right enough to become one of my new favourites. That said, this review comes with the caveat that I’ve been pretty severely depressed and anxious over recent weeks, and haven’t enjoyed things that I would otherwise have loved.
I really enjoyed the worldbuilding in Huntress. Malinda Lo seemed to have combined Celtic elements with a more Eastern / Chinese type of worldbuilding (I’m wary of being too specific without actually looking it up, as I don’t want to make false generalisations). Going by the names and the worldbuilding, the Xi were a version or interpretation of the Sidhe, found mostly in Irish texts. Obviously, that’s my kind of thing, and I’m always excited by new interpretations of fairies.
The characters were plenty engaging. Kaede reminded me somewhat of Lirael from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series, in a good way. Taisin is distinct and personable, and her visions of the future shape her actions in an emotional way. The romance, though it seemed a little underdeveloped, was cute.
But … something was lacking. I’m not sure what it was. Possibly, it was the pacing: there was a lot of build-up to what was ultimately an abrupt ending. The text alternated between very descriptive and then very curt and brief, right when I wanted more detail. I couldn’t really get to grips with the politics between the Xi and the humans, either, since they seemed to be in opposition until suddenly they weren’t.
This may have been my purely personal response. I know a lot of people who didn’t have these problems, at least going by their reviews, and my fascination with fairy lore and everything relating to it means I pay a lot of attention to those aspects of books. Plus, I was not only tired when I read it, but also depressed, which definitely doesn’t help my reading comprehension.
However, ultimately the book was a bit of a letdown. I’m so desperate for queer fantasy, particularly with female characters, that it still gets a positive response from me, but I have to admit that if the romance had been heterosexual, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Only because I’m so starving for LGBTQ fiction did this sneak through my hard-to-please tastes.
So, that was a shame. Not bad, but it didn’t live up to my expectations.