A Wild Light: A strange but wonderful dream

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Marjorie M Liu Hunter Kiss 1. The Iron Hunt 3. A Wild LightA Wild Light by Marjorie M. Liu

Reading the Hunter Kiss series is rather like having a strange but wonderful dream. You’re sometimes confused about exactly what is happening and why, but the vistas are breathtaking, the emotions are intense, and when you wake up, the only words that come to mind are “What a ride!”

In the hands of a lesser author, confusion can be a dealbreaker that leads to the book hitting the wall. But Marjorie M. Liu is not a lesser author. Her poetic prose and beautifully drawn character relationships keep you reading even when you — and Maxine — aren’t quite sure of what’s going on.

A Wild Light (2010) begins with the murder of Maxine’s grandfather, Jack. Maxine wakes to find Jack dead, and it appears that he has been killed with a blade that only Maxine can safely wield. Maxine has no memory of the murder, or of her boyfriend Grant. We follow Maxine as she tries to solve Jack’s murder and as Grant does his best to piece their relationship back together. At about the halfway point, A Wild Light goes from good to unputdownable when Liu drops a huge bombshell about the true nature of Maxine and of the “boys,” her five guardian demons. We also get some tantalizing glimpses of Maxine’s mysterious father.

Hunter Kiss by Marjorie LiuMaxine faces some tough decisions that will determine the kind of person she will be. She is tempted by unimaginable power. Pitted against that is love: not just the romantic variety (though Maxine and Grant are one of my favorite UF couples) but also Maxine’s love for the boys, her late mother, Jack, and her friends at the Coop.

The phrase “a wild light” is used twice, once to describe something terrifying, the second time to describe something sublime. I think this juxtaposition is absolutely intentional on Liu’s part.

I recommend this novel, and the Hunter Kiss series in general, to readers looking for something a little different in urban fantasy. If you like sumptuous prose and lots of symbolism and metaphor, and if you don’t mind the occasional moment of confusion, this is the series for you.

Published in 2010. For too long Maxine Kiss has felt an inexplicable darkness inside her-a force she channels into hunting the demons bent on destroying the human race. But when she finds herself covered in blood and crouched beside her grandfather’s dead body with no memory of what happened, Maxine begins to fear that the darkness has finally consumed her.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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  1. @Kat: By contrast, I love these covers. Maxine would never really wear that outfit, but it’s striking, and she gets to look really badass on the covers, and I love the way the blue cover of book 1, the yellow cover of book 2, and the red cover of book 3 look next to each other.

    AND, they accurately portray that the heroine is Asian, rather than whitewashing her as some covers do to their characters. YAY!!!

  2. She definitely looks badass! I totally wish I had a sword like that! Her tattoos are really cool, too.

  3. And in this case the tattoos are really in the story, and not just put on the cover model to look cool. ;)

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