2008-07-20

Book Review 29: Seattle -- Demon Hunting Ground


There was an art to living, and sometimes it required the inexorable , relentless resolve to just to keep plowing forward, one step at a time, no matter what the hell it was that you were doing.

The rest usually took care of itself.

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For the second time in as many months, I found myself in an airport with nothing to read. With my flight getting ready to board, I stumbled into the newsstand near the food court on the A concourse at the Detroit airport.

Marjorie M Liu's urban fantasy novel, "The Iron Hunt" jumped out at me and kept me thoroughly entertained for the next three flights. Liu's previous work includes "paranormal, romantic thrillers" and even an X-Men novel.

I recommend The Iron Hunt. It's a compelling read, a reasonably quick read, and an entertaining read.

The Iron Hunt continues in the long tradition of female heroines, including the the more recent trend inspired by Buff The Vampire Slayer.

Buffy fans will find the premise familiar. A powerful young woman is chosen by fate, given extraordinary power, enhanced through diligent training under the tutelage of an experienced teacher, and given the task of protecting an ignorant human race from the demonic terrors lurking around the corner.

In Liu's world, the heroines aren't chosen at random from around the world. It's one family of heroine, with the tradition passed down from mother to daughter.

While Buffy was surrounded by her Scoobies, Maxine "Hunter" Kiss, Liu's demon hunter, has a different collection of allies. Five demons live on her skin as tattoos and make her invulnerable during the day. Once the sun goes down, they slither off her skin, and work with her in her battle.

They are powerful, otherworldly, hungry, helpful, and a bit wacky.

Liu takes this premise and builds a compelling narrative out if it, creating a novel that can easily grow into a series. The novel features a wealth of interesting characters, and plenty of twists and turns. Early on Maxine Kiss tells us there are not coincidences. Liu does a nice job of tying seemingly loose threads together as she weaves the narrative.

Kiss goes through the novel with lots of questions, but gets very few answers until late in the novel. Most characters refuse to tell her anything, expecting her to figure things out for herself. While that can be an important education tool, I would like to have seen more stuff come out as we went along.

Liu writes Kiss as a strong, angry, somewhat impetuous character who has seen more than anyone's share of the dark. She is aware of her fate. I got caught up with her and wanted to follow her every step of the way.

There are some instances, though, where Kiss cries that don't ring quite true. It's not that the character didn’t have reason to, it's just that the way it was written took me out of the character. But those moments are few and far between.

Kiss, who by necessity must be familiar with folk lore and legends also enjoys books.

Compared to the bright sunlit interior of the gallery, Jack's office felt like the cave of some mountain hermit, and intellectual scavenger hoarding words and paper and books as though preparing for the long starvation of an endless dreary winter. I loved it. Felt comfy, like having my mind and spirit cushioned by good strong things. I would have made an excellent recluse.

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I can relate to that.

The book takes place in Seattle, where Liu grew up, and she uses the city as a background for the story.

Seattle was not so bad. But the bookstores downtown cared more about literary fiction than commercial reads, and that was indicative, I thought, of the social atmosphere. Yuppie, a little too preoccupied with what other people thought, and only superficially friendly.

Page 29

If I had been thinking clearly, it might have occurred to me that a gala event at the Seattle Art Museum would be a black-tie affair.

Page 75
Pike Place Market serves as key location in the normal-world/demon-world cosmology, and there are frequent references to the docks. A prominent art gallery appears to be in Pioneer Square. She even brings the U-District and International District into the novel.

The locations are Seattle, but lack a sense of "Seattle" if that makes any sense. The locations are just that -- locations. They could have been anyplace in the country without having a significant impact on the novel. When an author writes about the city a reader lives in, does the reader ever really get the "vibe" of the city from the text?

But I am glad to see familiar Seattle places in the novel, even if they don’t resonate with me beyond the text.

There are other great moments in the text. I found it amusing that the demon queen is a red head. There are plenty of other small, funny moments throughout the novel, too.

Liu wraps up her story nicely while creating the opportunity for a second book. At the end, everything does make sense. The threads she leaves dangling are by design, and other plot threads do all weave together.

I'll be keeping eyes open in airport newsstands for the continuing adventures of Hunter Kiss.

Confidence was always the key to looking like you belonged, no matter how elite and froufrou the circumstances -- or how run down.


Page 80

5 comments:

Book Calendar said...

I have thought about getting this to read. It is on the Locus Magazine bestseller list for science fiction and fantasy which is the trade magazine for science fiction and fantasy.

sheila sultani said...

I think I might pick this one up, you make it sound very interesting, thanks.

haleyhughes said...

I'll have to add this to my list of books to check out. Sounds fun.

sharp-words.co.uk said...

I like the sound of this, it's definitely the sort of thing I'd read. Thanks for the tip.

Cromely said...

Glad I could help. I'm looking forward to future installments in the series.