Saturday, July 19, 2008

“The Iron Hunt” by Marjorie Liu

Silver smoke winds around my torso, peeling away from my ribs and back, stealing the dark mist covering my hands and lower extremities…tattoos dissolving into demon flesh, coalescing into small dark bodies. My boys. The only friends I have in this world. Demons.

I am a demon hunter. I am a demon. I am Hunter Kiss.

By day, her tattoos are her armor. By night, they unwind from her body to take on forms of their own. Demons of the flesh, turned into flesh. This is the only family demon hunter Maxine Kiss has ever known. The only way to live—and the very way she’ll die. For one day, her demons will abandon her for her daughter to assure their own survival—leaving Maxine helpless against her enemies.

But such is the way of Earth’s last protector—the only one standing between humanity and the demons breaking out from behind the prison veils. It is a life lacking in love, reveling in death, until one moment—and one man—changes everything…
The Iron Hunt is the start of a new fantasy adventure series called Hunter Kiss. A novella featuring the main character was first introduced in the 2007 anthology Wild Thing. If you are not familiar with her work, Marjorie Liu has another major series “Dirk and Steele” which I would portray as paranormal Tom Clancy. Complex characters, exotic locations and intricate plots characterize those stories. Very engaging reads. The Iron Hunt promises more of the same. The opening line alone is worth the price of the book – “When I was eight, my mother lost me to zombies in a one card draw. “ Ominous and evocative narrative creates an atmosphere that is darkly delicious –
“Slogged backward in the dull silence of snow and the endless winter bones of the white forked trees. My mother carried me on her back. I can still see: silver clouds of my breath engulfing the tattoos on her neck; that lazy red eye, Zee, tracking my face in his dreams. I can still feel the bulge of knives beneath her black wool coat, too light and short for a blizzard, for anyone but a woman who did not feel the cold. I can hear, always hear, the song she sang over the crunching beat of her boots on the empty road. Folsom Prison Blues. Voice like sunshine and the rumble of a slow train."
Maxine Kiss is from a long matriarchal line of demon hunters and perhaps the last of her kind because it appears the final battle is almost upon her. Maxine thought she understood her purpose and abilities but as events progress finds her awareness only scratched the surface of her potential. Allies and enemies begin to align and it is clear that future installments will be action packed and suspenseful.

While marketed as paranormal there is also a strong nod to science fiction threaded into the story. The existence of alternate worlds, the prison veil and many other abilities are explained in terms owing as much to quantum physics as magic. A subtle and welcome blend. Recommended.

Read an excerpt from the first chapter on her website and check out a longer description of the novel featured in an interview with Marjorie Liu on the publishers’ website.

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