[Hunter] Mercedes Lackey

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Joy Charmand is a teenager with extraordinary abilities. She’s one of the Hunters, people who can call up hounds from a world hidden from our own. Together they protect the normal civilians from the creatures that passed through the barriers between our world and the Otherworld, an exciting yet dangerous lifestyle. Although people live in communities surrounded by walls that are meant to protect them from these Othersiders that stalk, lurk, and float in our own, occasionally the Hunters must deal with problems that get dangerously close to the walls. When Joy moves to the main city, Apex, she takes on more than hunts; Joy must deal with the increased surveillance and popularity the better she is at her job. And as always with a post-apocalyptic / dystopic young adult novel, things are not always what they seem to be.

Early on while reading Hunter I realized that this is meant for a younger crowd. Many young adult novels I read have a sort of maturity that Hunter was lacking. Yes, most of the time the age of the protagonist is 16-18, but from their actions and words they seem to be a bit older so I’m able to suspend my disbelief regarding their age. Joy was not one of those protagonists. She was supposed to be 16, but acted 12-14 years old most of the time. The style of writing did not make me feel that she was as old as she was supposed to be. There were many childish moments.  It read as an account that she was telling people, so I felt like I was never able to get into the action. Anytime something slightly exciting did happen, she narrated over the scene and immediately took me out of it. As a protagonist she was all over the place with the run-on sentences. It didn’t seem like she could focus. A protagonist is meant to explain the world. They’re in a unique position to do so. Instead, she’d stop herself with phrases like “This is all I can tell you about that.”

If Hunter had been written in third person, I could have probably forgiven most of my problems with Joy. In first person, however, she came off as a character that was trying too hard. The author was forcing her to think about things that were reminscent of Katniss from The Hunger Games series. There was no emotion behind the words.  She was saying them, but they just came off as stilted and dead, especially when she’d move to shiny things the next moment. Joy ended up being very boring as a character. As a narrator, Joy was too personal. I’m not a huge fan of directly addressing the reader. It was done in a grating way and every time it happened it grabbed me by my neck and threw me out of the story.  There were many times where I felt like I was being talked down to which is not a quality I like in a book.  I was far more interested in the side characters and when a story is written in first person they’re unable to shine.

The info dumping in this book was horrendous. I can forgive some info dumping while the world is being built for me in the first few chapters, but it was info dumping in all the wrong ways. The things I wanted to know about, like how the world worked / survived the first forays of the Othersiders, different types of Othersiders, and how hunting, calling the hounds, and magic worked were given only cursory sentences. These are the things that could have benefited from more descriptions, but instead they’re cut off. Or we’re told that if “you’re wondering what it looks like” imagine this, or look at this picture, OR, I don’t know, you could maybe describe it because you’re the protagonist / author? It truly came off as lazy writing. There’s not a ton of describing in a world that could benefit immensely from world and creature building. Instead, we were given info dumps on the differences in clothes (paragraphs that were completely unnecessary), foods that were not like the “real” food back at her mountain home, or characters that she missed so much but never showed up in Hunter. Give us an info dump on your hounds! They can talk and travel between the two worlds. I’d love to hear more about that. At the same time, however, do it in a natural way. I couldn’t believe how often the phrases “If you want to know” and “You’re probably wondering” were used in Hunter. It made my writer’s heart cry a little bit.

Instead the “world building” happens by the misspelling of simple words. I understand the pressure of creating new words and phrases for a fantasy story. You need to create something that’s strange, yet familiar. You do this by creating completely new things, in my opinion. Spelling “Saturday” as “Satterday,” “Champagne” as “Sham-pane,” and “Vegan” as “Vaygen” is not how you do it. Anytime a strangely spelled word came up in Hunter I wanted to scream. If it was meant to be a way to show how Joy was a hick from a mountain village, there are better ways of doing it than causing editors to cringe.

Much like Joy, the fantasy elements in Hunter were all over the place. I was really interested in how the Hunters were the only ones who could call up hounds from the Otherside, and how all of the hounds looked different and communicated or didn’t communicate. Unfortunately that’s not what Hunter is about. There’s more. Those who can call up the hounds have magic. From there we have wizards and magic, but they’re not necessarily able to call up the hounds. Moving on from magic there are people who can read minds, sometimes without even trying. The people who can read minds don’t go out in the world, because that’s the job of the Hunters. They use their hounds to hunt the Otherworlders, things that look like dragons or a floating eyeball, but it also includes a version of the Fair Folk and vampires. I hope I’ve been able to convey how incredibly full the novel was. There was just too many different fantasy elements contained in Hunter. There’s so much that the interesting and new things were unable to be detailed enough to keep my interest. Hunter should have focused on the new fantasy elements and dialed it back from the figures of myth and legend.  It should have been one or the other.

Ultimately, the entire time I was reading Hunter I was waiting for it to get better. With a premise that sounded like an exciting mix between Attack on Titan and the reality show aspect of The Hunger Games, two things that I enjoyed, I had hoped that I would have enjoyed Hunter more than I did. I was very underwhelmed by a main character I could not connect to emotionally at all and a story with “twists” that I predicted chapters before they occurred. Any time anything happened to Joy were were supposed to realize how speshul she was. It was shoved down our throats. Hunter ended up being a novel with a super speshul Mary-Sue protagonist who only parroted what other characters in other novels have done better. I am incredibly frustrated that Hunter left me feeling this way. It’s only an okay book, but perhaps someone who is in their pre-teen / early teen years would enjoy it. I will not be continuing this series.

2 stars.

I was provided with an advance reading copy courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Hunter will be available on September 1st, 2015.

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