The Iron Hunt

Marjorie M. Liu
2008, Urban Fantasy
Ace Books, $7.99, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 0441016065
Part of a series

Grade: C
Sensuality: Kisses

The Iron Hunt is the first book in a new urban fantasy series, but it is also the sequel to Liu's contribution to the Wild Thing anthology (Hunter Kiss, which earned an A- grade from an AAR colleague). I highly recommend picking up the anthology, as this is not a stand-alone novel by any means. The world that Liu creates in this series is intricate and the characters fascinating – and certainly different – but many questions raised aren’t answered, which I find extremely frustrating. And, by the way, I wouldn’t describe this as a romance either – although the heroine of the novel is in a serious relationship.

Maxine Kiss is a demon hunter, the last of her kind, and the only person standing between demons and the destruction of the world. During the day, tattoos cover Maxine and while she wears them she is invincible. She keeps them covered and only a few know of their existence. At sunset, the tattoos peel themselves from her body and become five little demons (Zee and the boys) that help Maxine destroy zombies and other demons. For thousands of years, hunter mothers passed the little demons down to their daughters, but Maxine and the boys now have a problem: The veils that act as a prison for demons and other bad creatures are crumbling and when they fall and...well, let’s just say bad things will happen. The veils are layers of time and space similar to a number of parallel universes all existing at the same time.

Maxine first becomes aware of the problems when she is questioned by police investigating the death of a private investigator who had her name on his person at the time of his death. She is stunned because no one should be aware of her true name or her location since she lives in a homeless shelter with the former priest who built it – Grant, her lover. He knows what Maxine is and has his own special powers as well.

Maxine goes on to discover that there are more creatures than the zombies and demons she’s encountered and they all know about her. Many of them want her dead, whereas others want to protect her because some things are simply worse than themselves.

For me, massive amounts of confusion and unanswered questions overshadow the very unique plot and fascinating characters. Take Grant, for example: We know that he and Maxine have a relationship and that he can heal the spirit through his music. What we don’t know, however, is how they met or where his powers come from. Zee and the boys have many secrets from Maxine as well and are blood sworn not to revel them - we never discover the who or the why to those either. Maxine’s mother left her countless journals to look to for help, but she ripped out large sections to hide things from Maxine. I kept wondering how she’s going to save the world if no one will give her any answers or tell her where to look for them.

I found Liu’s writing stark and simplistic (and annoying at first), but fitting for the story that she creates. I’m not a huge fan of one to two word sentences, but as I continued to read, the descriptions fit the disjointedness and bleakness of the story. I also enjoyed the first person narration, but again, I think it fit the character of the book.

The Iron Hunt is certainly unique and I think this series has potential. However, I hope that Liu answers the questions posed in the next installment because reading this one was nearly as frustrating as writing this review, with confusion being my overwhelming reaction.

-- Heather Brooks

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