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Huntress    by Malinda Lo order for
by Malinda Lo
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Though Huntress is billed as the prequel to Ash, Malinda Lo's newest YA fantasy can really stand on its own. In Huntress, we get to see the full story of how the position of King's Huntress came to be, as well as a bittersweet love story between two girls on the verge of adulthood.

Kaede and Taisin are two students at The Academy, an island boarding school where girls learn to be sages. Kaede does not have what it takes to be a sage but has been allowed to stay on since her father is the King's Chancellor. Taisin, on the other hand, is a farmer's daughter who has strong premonitions which have made her stand out among the other sages in training. Because of one of Taisin's visions, Kaede is chosen to accompany Taisin and prince Con on a long journey to Taninli to answer a summons from the Queen of the Xi, a faery race that has not been heard from for centuries. The trek is long and hard, but both girls realize that the summons must have something to do with the extended winter in The Kingdom and the strange sightings near The Wood; they know they must reach their goal in order to save their people. But their quest is far from over once they reach the city of Taninli and their hardest task makes them question who they really are and who they will become.

I have never seen before such a marked difference between a debut novel and the author's subsequent one. Whereas the plot to Ash felt rather disjointed and many character choices were questionable, everything in Huntress makes perfect sense. The storyline is clear, following close to the traditional epic fantasy quest model, and everything the characters do, say, and feel is firmly rooted in their personalities. The twist towards the end was a little rushed, but the rest was excellently paced and the reader truly gets to know the mythology of the unique world Lo has created. Huntress sucked me in immediately and kept me highly engaged through the whole journey. Whether you enjoyed Ash or not, give Malinda Lo another try. She has truly shown that her niche is LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) YA fantasy, and I look forward to more from her.

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