Title: The Iron Hunt (Hunter Kiss #1)
Author: Marjorie M. Liu
Publisher: Orbit (UK) / Ace (US)
Publication Date: May 2010 (UK) / June 2008 (US)
Paperback: 352 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Rating: 7/10 – very good
During the day, Maxine’s tattoos are her armour and she is invincible. At night they peel from her skin to take on forms of their own, leaving her human and vulnerable – and showing themselves to be demons sleeping beneath her skin. But these demons are the best friends and bodyguards a woman could have. And Maxine needs bodyguards. She is the last in a line of women with power in their blood, trained to keep the world safe from malignant beings who would do us harm.
But ten thousand years after its creation, the prison dimension that kept the worst of these from us is failing, and all Wardens save Maxine are dead. She must bear the burden of her bloodline and join the last wild hunt against the enemy.
The Iron Hunt is the first book in the Hunter’s Kiss series by Marjorie M. Liu and I really enjoyed it. It took me a little time to get into it at first as the sentences are very short and sharp, which made for difficult reading, but after around sixty pages or so I didn’t notice it as much and found myself being pulled into the story.
Maxine Kiss is a very intriguing character and although I didn’t feel I got to know her as quickly or as well as I have other urban fantasy protags, I still liked her and I think there is a lot of scope for her to grow. I also really liked the supporting cast of characters and found them to be equally as intriguing as Maxine, with each having a distinct voice.
Maxine is a Warden, from a long line of female warriors, to protect the world from the demons and creatures of other worlds. Unfortunately, she’s bit out of practice, she’s stopped training and practicing martial arts. Maxine realises that she has become very complacent since the death of her mother five years ago and has been relying far too much on ‘the boys’ to keep her alive.
‘The boys’ are demons, but protectors of Maxine and all those in the long line of Wardens before her, for ten thousand years. By day they sink into her skin as tattoos but by night they peel free to live as flesh and blood creatures: Dek, Mal, Aaz, Raw and Zee, who is the only one that can speak, albeit in limited sentences. The demons may be little but they are mighty in their abilities, protecting Maxine from fists, knives and bullets. They are quite cute too, enjoying a tickle under the chin or behind the ear…
There are zombies in The Iron Hunt, but they’re not the decomposing, shuffling kind. They are people who have been inhabited, possessed, by demons. These demons can be exorcised – Maxine’s speciality – which kills the demon but leaves the human unharmed, but unfortunately missing large parts of their life. Rex is one of these zombies and he doesn’t appreciate Maxine living in the same house as him, living in fear for his life. Maxine despises Rex in return and it takes all of her strength not to exorcise him, freeing the human he has prisoner.
Grant, Maxine’s lover, runs a shelter for the homeless and is also an ex-priest who can heal souls by music. He believes zombies can be reformed but Maxine believes the only way for zombies to achieve this is by leaving their human hosts, which of course they won’t do.
I can feel the love and respect Grant and Maxine have for one another but the relationship firmly takes a back seat to the main story of Maxine. She’s searching for the killer of a man who new her. Not the fake her, the pseudonyms she gives to most people, but the real her – her real name: Maxine Kiss. She wants to know why he had written her name on a piece of paper before he was killed and the reason he was murdered, which leads her to many intriguing questions about her own life and her role within it.
The other character I find exciting is the Tracker (who does exactly as his name suggests). He alludes to having a past with Maxine, which she can’t remember, although she can feel something. There’s a tension between them and I have a feeling it’s romantic but nothing is given away in the book. I will have to wait until book two to find out!
There’s not a lot of world building in The Iron Hunt, I really have no visual clue of where she lives. There are hints of city life but nothing is ever really described, but it didn’t matter too much as the story is very character driven, which is my favourite kind!
At times I found Liu’s imagination hard to follow – too ambiguous, talking in riddles to the point of confusion. Some are explained later in the book, some not. Most of Maxine’s questions went unanswered, which was quite frustrating and I was surprised she didn’t press certain characters harder for the answers she craved.
The Iron Hunt is fairly grim reading in that there’s virtually no humour and there aren’t that many highs, which gave the book quite a sombre feel. But due to snappy writing and very interesting characters The Iron Hunt is a solid first instalment and I enjoyed it a lot.
There are many elements you expect from an Urban Fantasy, such as demons, weapons, fighting, with Maxine kicking some serious butt, however, I feel Maxine is still finding out who she is and where she fits in. The Iron Hunt is just a taster of what’s to come and I for one can’t wait to find out!
Source: Thank you to ORBIT for sending me this book to review.
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