AUTHOR: MALINDA LO
SERIES: ASH, #2
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: FANTASY, LGBTQIA+ (F/F)
I read this for the #DiverseReads2017 January Prompt: diverse folklore/mythology. Features: Chinese Folklore – I Ching.
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.
This story is set in the same universe as Lo’s previous novel, Ash, but hundreds of years before so there’s little connecting the two. I was kind of meh about Ash, but I’d heard Huntress was a huge improvement so I decided to give it a go anyway. The world-building is wonderful and the quest-style plot has lots of potential, but a couple of key things really dragged this down for me.
The POV. Lo uses third-person omnipotent instead of the first-person used in Ash. Although this lets you experience what all of the characters are thinking, personally I felt it jumped far too much and too often, making it confusing and jarring.
The pacing. This is the biggest problem for me. We’re sort of thrown into the story right a the start, without much time setting up the world or why everyone’s doing what they’re doing. Then, the first stage of the journey is incedibly drawn out until about the 50-60% mark. And all of the real story – getting picked off in the woods, reaching the fairy city and TWO seperate quests (one to find and kill a fairy, one to save the fairy Queen and kingdom) – is jammed in at the end in a mad rush. I would have much prefered to focus on all of the action.
The Ending. The lesser of my three issues, but really? Another sorry where the f/f relationship ending in a way that means they don’t get to be together? I know we saw the ending in the visions right from the start but I sort of thought that the story would find a way to cleverly derail the obvious ending. I would have been more annoyed about this if I cared at all about the relationship between Kaede and Taisin, which I didn’t. They had no chemisty and the relationship seemed to exist purely because the plot says it does – both characters seemed to be just going through the motions.
Ultimately, as much potential as the second half of the story has, I felt myself skimming far too often, so I’m going to rate this one the same as Ash.