Huntress by Malinda Lo
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
The exciting adventure prequel to Malinda Lo's highly acclaimed novel Ash is overflowing with lush Chinese influences and details inspired by the I Ching, and is filled with action and romance.
Kirsty at The Overflowing Library sums this book up perfectly when she says- "it is fantasy adventure with kick-ass girls as leads". This is it exactly! I really liked this book- a fantasy quest story full of danger, heartbreak, and an unconventional love story.
I loved the main characters in this from feisty Kaede, and quiet but powerful Taisin, through to their guard Shae with her stories and quirky sense of humour and her stubborn independence. My favourite character was Con- the king's son, who is not at all spoilt or arrogant as you might expect a prince to be, but incredibly honourable with a great sense of humour. He is extremely protective of the girls, and as he has known Kaede all her life, he is very affectionate toward her and jokes about with her like she is a little sister to him. He thinks nothing of camping on the ground at night, and treats everyone as equals- viewing the trip as a way to better understand the kingdom and the people. He also wants to prove himself, and to be the one to re-establish a connection with the Xi people. And as they travel he also develops a really sweet crush on the guard, Shae.
The book is mostly based on Kaede, Taisin and Con and their small group of guards, their individual stories, and the story of their long journey out of the kingdom. Kaede is battling with the wishes of her family and trying to escape an arranged marriage, and Taisin is under the intense pressure of being the most gifted magical student at the academy. But there is a connection between them. At first the trip seems like an adventure and an opportunity, but the further away they get, the more unknown the territory, and the more dangerous.
First is their perilous journey through the kingdom and all the dangers lurking in the woods to go and meet the queen of the fay (also called the Xi) and find out what is causing all the odd happenings in the kingdom, and why all the crops are failing. From there they are set on a mission to right the magic and restore a balance to the world. The half Xi evil sorcoress is seriously evil, and determined to stop them, and Taisin's visions of the future start coming true, and so there is always the very tense possibility that they might not all make it back home.
I loved the scale of this book, and the detail in the describing the people and places that they encountered made it seem so real.
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