Huntress by Malinda Lo. ★★★
Huntress is a low stress, fairly simple young adult book about two girls who go on a quest to save their kingdom and happen to fall in love with each other along the way.
The book starts with Taisin, a seventeen year old training to be a sage, having a vision. She sees herself watching a girl she loves deeply row away to what’s probably her death. Taisin’s vision is proven to be crucial to a journey to visit the Fairy Queen, a visit that’s hoped to save the kingdom from starvation and the strange and dangerous creatures that have started to appear along the border. Taisin, Kaede, the king’s son, and three guards are thus packed off on this dangerous quest.
Huntress has both its good points and bad points, but I’ll start with the good points. For one, I liked the atmosphere of the world. Lo was able to communicate well the threat the kingdom was under, the coldness, the perpetually grey sky… the Great Woods really evoked a sense of darkness and malevolence. I also liked how the magic was set up and tied into the world.
I liked the major characters all right, even if they never really came alive to me. Taisin, Kaede, and Con (the prince) all had basic personalities and were at least distinguishable from one another.
Huntress also benefits from being something different than the normal YA fantasy fare – how many books are there in an Asian based setting where the two female protagonists fall in love? I also liked how the drama between Taisin and Kaede wasn’t because they were both girls. The world Lo’s created doesn’t seem to have any homophobia, and the drama’s instead due to Taisin wanting to become a sage, which means taking a vow of chastity.
Also, Con wasn’t in unrequited love with one of the lesbian protagonists. So kudos for that.
For the bad points… Huntress has third person omniscient POV that shifts around constantly. I actually didn’t find it annoying in here as I have in other books.
As a result of the vision that Taisin has in the beginning, there’s a sort of paradoxical instalove. Taisin has feelings for Kaede before she even knows Kaede. At least on Kaede’s part things were more gradual.
The villain was incredibly weak and underdeveloped. Plus, there was a long monologue near the end. Urgh.
Speaking of the end, the climatic Grand Confrontation felt very brief. It needed more depth and time spent on it. Most of the book was spent on characters traveling to the climatic Grand Confrontation, which also was pretty vague and mystical – sort of like what Robin McKinley writes for her confrontation scenes.
This next paragraph is vague but might be considered spoilers, so read at your own risk. I wasn’t happy with the ending. I get that it was realistic in the the future is uncertain, I think. A choice may have been made at the end, but the character’s decision was not explained, which leaves me confused to as if there even was a decision. I also feel like the idea of a possible third choice was being set up, but it was not explored. Overall, I would have liked the ending to be more wrapped up.
I would recommend this to people looking for a romance subplot between two girls, non-white characters, or girls going on an adventure.