(2015) Rebecca Levene, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk,469pp, ISBN 978-1-444-75375-2
The Hunter’s Kind is book two of 'The Hollow God' series, picking up where the story left us at the end of Smiler’s Fair. The first book is an essential read for understanding this, the sequel.
Having escaped Smiler’s Fair with the unreliable Dae Hyo and strange Olufemi, Krish is determined to find a way to seize control of Ashaneland. But Krish has many enemies, who have their own determination to seek him out and destroy him.
The book starts like its predecessor with a prologue, introducing more new characters. Initially, this can be somewhat off putting as the previous book already had many viewpoints. However, it did become clear why the author chose to introduce Cwen: This character is needed to bring the other characters together.
The book follows the same format of the previous, with multiple viewpoints. Again, this works as a device to show the scale of the world created, helps the reader to grasp the intricate world created – and the diversity and complexity of the sub plots. Some may find the many viewpoints a testing read. Others may find that the vast numbers of characters results in a lack of depth – a lack of really getting to know a character, to have a feeling of ‘rooting’ for them. There is so much going on, it’s like watching a series of events rather than seeing characters truly grow and change. My personal preference is to have a character – or a cause – which I am rooting for: I still have neither. Although, at a push, I could choose Sang Ki as a favourite character so far.
Although in general the world is well thought out, Mirror Town doesn’t have enough detail in its description. This feels like a missed opportunity, particularly as Mirror Town is the place where all the threads of storyline meet. Mirror Town was made out to be a spectacular place, but when the characters arrived there, I just did not feel it.
The book is evenly and well-paced throughout, and Levene’s writing does not disappoint. She has a strong, to the point, no-nonsense, ‘say it as it is’, voice – which is a breath of fresh air.
This series is unique - containing all sorts of things you might expect to find in a fantasy novel – monsters, mages, battle and a prophesy of a young man destined to kill his father. But what really makes Levene's storytelling different is that you don't feel like you are safe in front of fire and somebody has just said 'once upon a time.' You feel like you have walked into the characters’ lives and become a sort of accidental voyeur to all the ups and downs: That they existed before you walked in on them and their lives will continue once you put the book down. Character lives begin and end, but the threads of who they are stretch back before the first book and continue onwards after this one.
The main premise is a battle between The Moon God and his followers and the Sun God and her followers. Where most fantasy books are essentially a battle between good and evil, I am still unsure which God is on which side, which is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This is a clever plot device, making for an intriguing read. The characters in the book can all be loosely arrange to be either on the side of the Sun or the Moon. Two sides rushing towards bloody conflict. They all think they are doing the 'right thing' even when the right thing leads to the torture of innocents, the death of hundreds and societal anarchy.
Levene's fantasy world is not for the squeamish: A place where you could get you throat cut while taking a piss, where you soil yourself during childbirth, where children are rejected by their parents for their own infidelity and women are raped as a consequence of conflict.
But there are some lovely moments too... when the normalisation of gender reassignment in a fantasy world is achieved with 'a women's a woman no matter what she's born with down below' and love can grow between a couple even when their sexual it is at odds, it makes you wonder why it is so difficult for some people in our own world to get it.
This book is a real character driven slice-of-life – assuming your life involves a massive religious conflict that you accidently participated in, in a brutal fantasy world.
Suzanne Harbour and Karen Fishwick
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