Hunter, by Mercedes Lackey

Hunter Book Cover Hunter
Hunter #1
Mercedes Lackey
Dystopian, young adult
Disney Hyperion
Sep 1 2015
e-book
400

Centuries ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were slashed open allowing hideous fantastical monsters to wreak havoc; destroying entire cities in their wake. Now, people must live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the evil creatures constantly trying to break in. Only the corps of teen Hunters with lightning reflexes and magical abilities can protect the populace from the daily attacks.

Joyeaux Charmand is a mountain girl from a close knit village who comes to the big city to join the Hunters. Joy thinks she is only there to perform her civic duty and protect the capitol Cits, or civilians, but as cameras follow her every move, she soon learns that the more successful she is in her hunts, the more famous she becomes.

With millions of fans watching her on reality TV, Joy begins to realize that Apex is not all it seems. She is forced to question everything she grew up believing about the legendary Hunters and the very world she lives in. Soon she finds that her fame may be part of a deep conspiracy that threatens to upend the protective structure built to keep dark magic out. The monsters are getting in and it is up to Joy to find out why.

The reality TV future isn't a Hunger games specific idea. I mean, I just have to say this before I move on, because it irks me when someone claims a book is like another book because they both draw on the same cultural phenomenon - in this particular case I'll just point to instagram, snapchat, youtube channels and so on. It's not a huge leap of imagination from "Gosh, we sure do voluntarily offer a ton of information about ourselves in places where we get likes and followers"   to - you know - "Well, so, maybe a future, like, where those ratings and followers matter a lot..."

Okay.  That said,  you're going to see people talking about Mercedes Lackey's Hunter like it's the Hunger Games with patronus spells!

No... well, yes, but no.

I enjoyed reading this book.  Joyeaux Charmander is a very pleasant protagonist. She's smart and thoughtful, and her competence comes from a good amount of training, for the most part. She's also pretty special, but her special features wouldn't necessarily matter if she didn't have the wit and grace to handle it.

She lives in a world that has somewhat rebuilt itself after something terrible happened - it wasn't the apocalypse, the religious communities will have you know, so they call it the diseray instead.  It was a long time ago, and it was so bad it tore a hole through the world, and othersiders found a way in.  Along with magic.   Now, some humans - not many, but some - are born with certain talents;  Joy is a Hunter, one who controls hounds from the otherside, to protect the community. She gets to know a dude who is a psimon, which is exactly what it sounds like - a mind-reader, a telepath.

One of the things I liked best about this book was the emphasis on friendships rather than, uh, the stormy romances often found in the genre.  Tied to this is some very clear and brusque commentary on religion, especially Christianity.  I was a bit surprised - I never expect to find those matters liberally discussed in (American) books for younger audiences.  It was an opening for several philosophical conversations between Joy and other characters,  which I appreciate, though it did occasionally get a bit heavy-handed.

My biggest complaint about Hunter is one I often have, lately - it's a series starter that leaves a lot of questions unanswered.  It's not as bad as many others - Hunter has a good ending with decent closure, just not quite enough to make me forget I was expecting to find out about a handful of other things, too.

Do I recommend the book? Sometimes you just need a good slightly-unrealistically-flawless heroine who kicks butt in a nicely built world with many interesting sights to see.  Y'know.  This is that book.  It's that book for those of us who are really quite happy when the protagonist simply acknowledges oops, hormones, and gets on with her day without cringeworthy entanglements.   So, yeah! This is a thumbs up.

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