I just had the great pleasure of meeting two fictional girls that I'd love to be friends with in real life--Kaide and Taisin, heroine's of Malinda Lo's new book, Huntress (Little Brown, 2011, YA, 371 pages). The circumstances of our meeting weren't the most peaceful--they were on a life or death quest to restore balance to a world in which nature has gone seriously out of whack, a quest involving monsters, fairies, and evil wolves, and a perilous journey across ice, not to mention a Final Confrontation of Great Danger.
But gosh, I liked these two girls lots, and it was a pleasure to cheer them on as they fell ever so sweetly in love.
It's clear from the beginning that this will happen, and the slow unfolding of their romance is a delightful accompaniment to the excitement and difficult of their quest. Both the girls are students at the Academy of Seers--Taisin because she has a true gift for magic, and Kaede because her well-born parents thought it would be a good thing to do with her while waiting for her to grow up and become marriageable. But their paths had never crossed much, and neither had given much thought to each other. Then Taisin was visited by a dream that sets events in motion, and with which the book itself begins:
"She saw a beach made of ice, and she felt her heart breaking." And Taisin, in her vision, watches Kaede row away over the cold blue ocean....
Huntress is long-time-ago prequel to Ash, Lo's debut book and one I loved (my review). Ash took place over many years, and had a very fairy tale, dreamlike quality to it. In contrast, Huntress is an adventure quest story, and so moves along briskly from Point A to Point B--a different sort of read altogether. As a result, Huntress is, perhaps, a faster, more gripping read--one wants to know what is going to happen!
Yet the things I loved in Ash--the pictures the writing makes in my mind, the characters to cherish, a world of magic--were all there in Huntress, and so, if pressed, I'd have to say I liked this one even more. Maybe, more than just a little, because I liked Kaede and Taisin so very much.
For more about Huntress, including a discussion of the Asian-inspired magic that infuses this world, please visit Malinda Lo's interview over at The Enchanted Inkpot.