The Iron Hunt (Hunter Kiss) by Marjorie M Liu

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The Iron Hunt (Hunter Kiss) by Marjorie M Liu

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Bizarre mix of urban fantasy, parallel prison dimensions, demonic possession and European mythology is engaging and frustrating in roughly equal parts. Probably one you'll either love or hate.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 384 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841498003

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Maxine Kiss, narrator, starts this bizarre novel – the first in a sequence – with the sentence When I was eight, my mother lost me to zombies in a game of one-card draw. From that great, bizarre opening, the story only gets weirder.

Maxine is the last in the line of the Wardens, who wear demons as tattoos in the day, making them invulnerable. At night, 'the boys' peel away and leave her open to attack – and there are an awful lot of people out to attack her. While she's spent her life, since inheriting the tattoos from her mother, tackling zombies (who are humans possessed by demons in this world, rather than 'traditional' zombies), she quickly finds there are far worse things out there in the prison dimension they call home. The death of an investigator trying to find her leads to strange alliances being formed, questions about her past being raised, and the end of the world approaching… unless she can stop it.

I've spent about three days trying to write this review, and can't actually work out whether I particularly enjoyed the book or not. There are moments when it's absolutely fantastic – the opening sentence had me interested straight away, and there are some very interesting characters – notably Maxine's lover Grant, who can soothe demons with his music and persuade them to change their ways, Zee, leader of 'the boys' and Jack Meddle, the mysterious 'Meddling Man'. Unfortunately, they're not particularly well fleshed-out in many respects, and I found myself wishing for a slightly smaller cast with more time devoted to each of them.

The plot here is dense, and the twists and turns are fast and furious. No-one could accuse Marjorie Liu of a lack of ambition here, as she ties in the zombies to bigger demons possibly coming through from beyond the veil, and the infamous Wild Hunt of European legend. But while I appreciate Liu is being intentionally vague about many things, there's a fine line between being mysterious and being utterly confusing – and much of this is the wrong side of that line.

I did quite enjoy Liu's writing style, though. Lots of short, sharp sentences and some snappy dialogue – particularly in flashbacks to Maxine's mother and grandmother's days of demon hunting. I also found Maxine to be a likeable and interesting narrator, but all in all I'm not expecting this to be a series that I continue reading. That said, I'm sure there'll be some urban fantasy fans out there who absolutely love it, so if you're tempted by the premise and are willing to wait until the next book to have some of the mysteries resolved, this might be worth a look.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For another urban fantasy with a strong female protagonist, Red-headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells comes recommended.

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