Book Review: Hunter by Mercedes LackeyHunter by Mercedes Lackey
Series: Hunter #1
Published by Disney-Hyperion on September 1, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, YA Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Young Adult
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Centuries ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were slashed open allowing hideous fantastical monsters to wreak havoc; destroying entire cities in their wake. Now, people must live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the evil creatures constantly trying to break in. Only the corps of teen Hunters with lightning reflexes and magical abilities can protect the populace from the daily attacks.

Joyeaux Charmand is a mountain girl from a close knit village who comes to the big city to join the Hunters. Joy thinks she is only there to perform her civic duty and protect the capitol Cits, or civilians, but as cameras follow her every move, she soon learns that the more successful she is in her hunts, the more famous she becomes.

With millions of fans watching her on reality TV, Joy begins to realize that Apex is not all it seems. She is forced to question everything she grew up believing about the legendary Hunters and the very world she lives in. Soon she finds that her fame may be part of a deep conspiracy that threatens to upend the protective structure built to keep dark magic out. The monsters are getting in and it is up to Joy to find out why.

For several minutes after reading the last page of Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter, the first book in an all-new series for Disney-Hyperion, my mind was blank except for a mental shrieking of “OhmigodohmigodohmigodIlovethisbook.” Truth be told, I had expected to like the book. I haven’t read a Mercedes Lackey book I didn’t like. But I didn’t expect to be so completely blown away I just wanted to throw things in the air from the sheer frustration that the next volume wasn’t available RIGHT NOW so I could keep the already encroaching book hangover at bay. If I hadn’t already been a raging fan of this author, I would be after this book.

First off, the world in which the main character, Hunter Joyeaux “Joy” Charmand, lives is so diverse and intensely textured, it’s no wonder I’ve crowed Mercedes Lackey the reigning queen of world building, at least in my mind. While reading this, you get a sense of various cultures, of geography, of political climate, and even of the more mundane things not everyone in this fictional post-apocalyptic world even knows. In fact, because we follow a character who knows more than the average Cit (citizen) about the hidden workings of magic and human nature, we are given a unique perspective of the world—that of an outsider looking in, who also happens to be almost fully immersed in it.

Next, I want to talk about the character of Joy herself. She’s very much the force that drives these books and the entire series, and while a shade to heavily on the side of the angels, though she wouldn’t be pleased to hear so, she is nevertheless a character with quite a bit of complexity. Yes, she’s smart and has amazing abilities, but she also has a marked tendency toward hotdogging, a mile-wide streak of paranoia, and a bit of a lone rider complex. Yet she is thoughtful and remarkably unspoiled; more importantly, she has a very strong moral compass and the strength and conviction to follow it.

Now, if you’re a Lackey fan, you’ll see a lot of echoes of her Valdemar characters and constructs, but I think these similarities were done artfully enough that rather than chafing at the sameness, any fan will simply embrace it as a different manifestation of that same awesomeness. Notably you’ll get to know characters that resemble those in Vanyel’s and Talia’s stories, and that’s all I can say while avoiding spoilers.

That sense of familiarness shows up in other ways as well. There were several developments that pushed the plot along that I wasn’t too surprised by, but I think that when you’ve read 25, 30, or probably more books by the same author, you get a sense of her rhythm as a storyteller. That’s not a criticism, it’s just a necessary byproduct of long-term fandom, I think, and one I’ve resigned myself to for all authors of series I follow whose books number in the dozens. But it’s not a bitter resignation. In fact, I was downright smug about those instances when I correctly predicted what would happen. I might even say it helped reinforce my fandom.

I’d like to say one last thing before I end this gushfest. The thing I love most about this novel, and indeed all Lackey’s novels, is the author’s ability to retain a sense of youth and idealism at the core of the story without holding back on issues like treachery and politics and the baser parts of human nature. You see it over and over again in her novels—Lackey doesn’t sugarcoat or evade the cruelty and callousness that exists in humanity and, therefore, in her characters. But at the heart of each of her stories is at least one character who stands bright in the darkness. Back when I was a teenager and very keen on learning all I could about the world’s religions, I stumbled upon a Jewish concept: tikkun olam, the idea that every human being has a responsibility to help heal the world. And as corny as it may sound, one of the reasons I keep going back to this author’s books (I have reread some of them over 10 times) is the way her main characters embody this concept almost purely. They’re feel-good reads in an expanded sense of the term because they’ll leave you feeling like you want to do good. And of course, they’re just that damned entertaining.


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About Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes entered this world on June 24, 1950, in Chicago, had a normal childhood and graduated from Purdue University in 1972. During the late 70's she worked as an artist's model and then went into the computer programming field, ending up with American Airlines in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In addition to her fantasy writing, she has written lyrics for and recorded nearly fifty songs for Firebird Arts & Music, a small recording company specializing in science fiction folk music.

"I'm a storyteller; that's what I see as 'my job'. My stories come out of my characters; how those characters would react to the given situation. Maybe that's why I get letters from readers as young as thirteen and as old as sixty-odd. One of the reasons I write song lyrics is because I see songs as a kind of 'story pill' -- they reduce a story to the barest essentials or encapsulate a particular crucial moment in time. I frequently will write a lyric when I am attempting to get to the heart of a crucial scene; I find that when I have done so, the scene has become absolutely clear in my mind, and I can write exactly what I wanted to say. Another reason is because of the kind of novels I am writing: that is, fantasy, set in an other-world semi-medieval atmosphere. Music is very important to medieval peoples; bards are the chief newsbringers. When I write the 'folk music' of these peoples, I am enriching my whole world, whether I actually use the song in the text or not.

"I began writing out of boredom; I continue out of addiction. I can't 'not' write, and as a result I have no social life! I began writing fantasy because I love it, but I try to construct my fantasy worlds with all the care of a 'high-tech' science fiction writer. I apply the principle of TANSTAAFL ['There ain't no such thing as free lunch', credited to Robert Heinlein) to magic, for instance; in my worlds, magic is paid for, and the cost to the magician is frequently a high one. I try to keep my world as solid and real as possible; people deal with stubborn pumps, bugs in the porridge, and love-lives that refuse to become untangled, right along with invading armies and evil magicians. And I try to make all of my characters, even the 'evil magicians,' something more than flat stereotypes. Even evil magicians get up in the night and look for cookies, sometimes.

"I suppose that in everything I write I try to expound the creed I gave my character Diana Tregarde in Burning Water:

"There's no such thing as 'one, true way'; the only answers worth having are the ones you find for yourself; leave the world better than you found it. Love, freedom, and the chance to do some good -- they're the things worth living and dying for, and if you aren't willing to die for the things worth living for, you might as well turn in your membership in the human race."

*Image and bio from Goodreads