I discussed how absurdly excited I was about The Hunter’s Kind in one of my very first posts. The logical question is, did this much-anticipated sequel to Smiler’s Fair live up to my expectations?
The short answer is ‘yes’. The slightly longer answer is ‘yes with bells on.’ The even longer (and more sensible) answer is this …
The Hunter’s Kind is superb entertainment that ticks off every item of my Fantasy Fiction checklist. Firstly, it has a compelling central arc. Krish, who was raised a humble goatherd, must grapple with the news that he is the reborn moon god Yron. Krish’s story reminded me a little of Daenerys Targaryen’s. Like the Khaleesi, Krish must find a way of attaining power whilst retaining his humanity. But, the novel asks, is it even possible to retain your humanity if you are a god?
Levene also creates characters that rival some of the giants of the genre. Krish may be at the centre of things, but I tell you what, it is his erstwhile companion Dae Hyo who steals the show, along with the equally tremendous Eric and the giant bat, Rii. This sequel also introduces some great new characters in Cwen and Alfreda, and develops some existing ones in interesting ways. Sang Ki, a secondary character in Smiler’s Fair, is moved to the foreground here and Levene shows her skill at characterisation by depicting him in a surprising new light.
As we have come to expect from newer additions to the genre, there is no obvious hero and it is never clear which ‘side’ to take. This all contributes to a satisfyingly complex fantasy that reflects on issues that are of equal importance in our world, namely the nature of belief systems and warfare. Moreover, in both Smiler’s Fair and The Hunter’s Kind, Levene interrogates fantasy conventions and expectations – particularly those surrounding race, sexuality and gender – in ways that really mark this series out.
The Hunter’s Kind, unlike many examples of fantasy fiction, is extremely taut and fast-paced. There are some gripping battle scenes and a rather surprising amount of **gasp!** pay-off moments for what is only the second novel in a sequence; usually, such moments are stored up for a finale. This all suggests that Levene has plenty more tricks up her sleeve and, given that this novel reaches an absolutely stunning conclusion (I am talking serious ‘jaws on the floor’ stuff here), I can’t wait for the next installment.