This is the first post in what will probably be an occasional series as, at present, there aren’t that many books I am itching to get my hands on. This one, however … goodness me. I am seriously considering scheduling my summer holiday around its release. I am that excited. The Hunter’s Kind is due to be released, by Hodder and Stoughton, on 2nd July and, according to Amazon, I pre-ordered it on 27th February so … yes.
So why all the excitement? Well, The Hunter’s Kind is the second volume in the Hollow Gods series, an epic fantasy series by Rebecca Levene. The first volume, Smiler’s Fair came out last summer and was, in my opinion, one of the best novels published in 2014.
The setting for this series is Ashanesland, a universe once inhabited by the Sun goddess Mizhara and her brother, the Moon god Yron. Both are long dead, Yron having been defeated and killed by his sister during a long and devastating war. The deities’ legacy dominates their former kingdom as well as the novel. Yron’s erstwhile servants, known as the worm men, cannot venture into sunlight and dwell in shadow. Permanent dwellings cast the shadows so beloved of these feared creatures so, to avoid the monsters’ wrath, everything and everyone in this universe is in constant flux. That includes the eponymous carnival Smiler’s Fair. If the earth is covered for too long, the worm men come, bringing death in their wake. Once the first death is reported, the fair must move before other deaths follow.
The gods’ legacy frames the novel in another way. The plot is driven by a prophecy, namely that the King of Ashaneland’s unborn son will be the heir of Yron, a saviour who will overthrow and kill his father. The King is, understandably, keen to avoid this fate and vows to have the baby killed as soon as it is born. The Queen, in a bloody and startling opening sequence that sets the tone for the rest of the book, saves her son’s life. The surviving child has silver moon eyes, to many a sign of evil and a clear sign of a connection to the Moon god Yron. This child is ignorant of his destiny and is raised as the goatherd, Krish.
Alongside Krish is a whole cast of compelling characters who all have equally compelling, and often interconnecting, story arcs of their own. There is Eric, the prostitute (or sellcock in Hollow Gods parlance), who becomes invisibly bound to Krish by another prophecy that ties him to the overarching narrative. There is Nethmi, a young girl forced into marriage. Nethmi is particularly intriguing as Levene takes what I feel is the refreshing and unusual step of allowing her young, pretty female character to be unattractively flawed. We also have Marvan, who would definitely shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die, so fond is he of taking lives. Then a special word for my own very special favourite, the gruff warrior with a kind heart he seeks to hide, Dae Hyo. In line with the beliefs of his vanquished warrior tribe, Dae Hyo believes men to be the weaker sex. Little clue as to his great appeal for me right there. There is also an ageing Mage whose powers appear to be waning and the obligatory bastard son, both of whom seek Krish, though for very different reasons.
For me, the magic of Smiler’s Fair lies in its characters and the hugely satisfying way in which they connect with one another. The plot also moves at a fair old pace, unlike other works of epic fantasy such as, to state the massively obvious, A Song of Ice and Fire. Consequently, the pay-offs in this novel – such as two main characters meeting and joining forces in joyous bromance fashion – are more frequent. The prophecy-laden plot is absolutely gripping, too. In short, I cannot wait for The Hunter’s Kind because I am agog for more clues as to the ultimate destinies of these vividly drawn characters and to see how they will continue to connect with one another along the way.
If you are in any way intrigued and this series has so far escaped your notice, I will wait here while you go and investigate Smiler’s Fair. Then you can pop back and join me as we count down the days to the release of The Hunter’s Kind. If you are already all caught up with the series, please let me know your thoughts. Are you as excited as me (if that is humanly possible) or not (in which case, we might have to have an animated yet good natured exchange about the whole thing)?
Recap: The Hunter’s Kind will be published by Hodder and Stoughton on 2nd July and I very much think you should read it. You may investigate here.