Book Review #17: Hunter and Fox by Philippa Ballantine

 

Title: Hunter and Fox
Author: Philippa Jane Ballantine
Publisher: PYR Books
Release Date: June 26, 2012 (Available for pre-order.)
Available Formats: PYR Trade Paper.

On a day not too long ago, I wandered out to the mailbox, like any other day, wondering what bills and junk mail awaited me. Upon opening the mailbox, I truthfully have no idea what else was was in there, because the mysteriously book shaped package grabbed my attention. I, like the impatient person I am, ripped the packaging to shreds and then did a little dance of joy right there in the street. I held in my hands, an Advanced Reader Copy of Philippa J. Ballantine’s PYR premiere book, Hunter and Fox. I had heard Ms. Ballantine tweet about this book off and on for several years, and heard Lou Anders, editor of PYR books provide a synopsis of it at Fencon earlier this year. I can honestly say, it is one of the books I’ve been most excited about in 2012. DId it live up to that build up?

On to the review.

Synopsis: In a world that is in constant shifting, where mountains can change to plainsand then to lakes, Talyn is the Hunter for the Caisah, and a wreck of a once-proud person. She has lost her people, the Vaerli, and her soul working for the man who destroyed her people. All unknowing, she carries within her a Kindred, a chaos creature from the center of the earth that wants to help bring the Vaerli back to power. However, she has lost the ability to communicate with it.

She must also deal with the machinations of Kelanim, the mistress of Caisah, who out of fear will do anything to bring Talyn down.

Little does the Hunter know that salvation is looking for her, and it wears the face of gentleness and strength. Finn is a teller of tales who carries his own dreadful secret. He sets out to find answers to his path but ends up in the city of Perilous and Fair where he meets Talyn. He knows the danger and yet is drawn to her. Their fates are bound together.

Meanwhile, the Hunter’s lost brother Byre is searching for his own solution to the terrible curse placed on the Vaerli. He sets forth on a treacherous journey of his own, which will intersect in the most unlikely place with that of Talyn and Finn.

The ramifications of this encounter will be felt by all the people in Conhaero, from the lost Vaerli to the Caisah on his throne.

(Stolen from pyrsf.com)

Setting: As the synopsis states, this story takes place on the world of Conhaero. Conhaero is a world that has many similarities and many differences from our own earth. The green horse thing on the cover of the book isn’t a mistake. Things are a bit different in Ms. Ballantine’s world. Things are always a bit different in Ms. Ballantine’s worlds.

Though this next point truly doesn’t belong in the setting, I am going to state it now. Ms. Ballantine does world building right. I love how she tells me things when I need to know them without bogging down the story with unnecessary details. I don’t feel the need for a lecture at the beginning of a book or scene explaining why things work the way they do, and obviously, neither does Ms. Ballantine. Ms. Ballantine never allows the evolution of the world we’re invited to visit to derail us from the plot of the story.

Plot: As I sat down with Hunter and Fox, the story began to unfold in a fairly linear manner. Talyn is a member of a once powerful and now subjugated race who works for the enslaver of her people in order to win back some of the powers her race once enjoyed. Straightforward and right to the point.

I think that fallacy lasted until the second or perhaps third chapter. The plot of Hunter and Fox is neither straightforward nor easy to restate. While the previous sentence is true, Hunter and Fox could also be classified as a story about a chance at redemption and the strange paths destiny might ask us to walk. The shades of gray become colorful in themselves and the tapestry that Ms. Ballantine weaves is rich with texture and color.

Characters: I know I’ve said this before, but it obviously needs restating: I find Ms. Ballantine characters to be some of the most believable, memorable, driven characters in fiction today. She is a harsh mistress and one should never become too attached to any of her creations as I personally believe that none of her characters are sacrosanct. Hunter and Fox is no different in this regard. Talyn and Finn and others you will meet between the covers experience more physical and psychological pain than most authors place in a ten novel series. Talyn is by far the darkest of Ms. Ballantine’s heroes to date, and truthfully, it made me love her all the more.

Odin’s recommendation: Pre-order this one now. If you have someone in the house that is also a fan of Ms. Ballantine’s work, buy multiple copies: you’re not going to want to wait your turn. Of course, you might also want to buy one for that person in your life that irritates you. Why? This is the first book of the Shifted World series. It does a simply wonderful job of setting up the characters and storyline for future volumes. Let me restate this: it does a great job of opening more doors than it closes. Which is wonderful because I was wholly unready for this story to end when i turned the last page.

If someone looks at the books of my personal library, most would look to be brand new. Never read and rarely touched. I like the look of new books and am a very gentle reader.

My copy of Hunter and Fox is beat up and abused. I took it with me everywhere squeezing in whatever time I could to get a little further along. I skipped lunch a couple of times because reading was more imperative.

With Hunter and Fox, I believe PYR has a solid hit on their hands and Ms. Ballantine has another outstanding series that will enthrall her current readers and be sure to add new fans.

And I’m sure they’ll feel the same way I do: Curse you Philippa Jane Ballantine, write faster!

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