The “Hunter Kiss” series by Marjorie M. Liu

the mortal bone

I have recently added Marjorie M. Liu to my list of favorite authors. I edged around her for years, noting her books in the store, occasionally picking one up but never reading one. They just seemed… not uninteresting but maybe the sort of thing that I wouldn’t really get into. It just didn’t really seem like my kind of thing. But, one day I decided, what the hell? What can it hurt to try? And, obviously, I have not regretted that decision. It also helped that I had read a short story of hers in an anthology, which if you’ll remember one of my earliest posts, is a great way to discover new authors. It’s also a great way to lose valuable brain cells and six or so dollars of your hard earned money, but you roll the dice. Anyway, so I tried Liu out and, amazingly, actually picked up her first book, purely by accident. What are the odds? But that’s not the focus of this, because that’s part of a different series. Here I am talking about her Hunter Kiss series, which starts with a short story and thus far has four books in it. It’s really, really cool. I think I know where she’s going with it, but I cannot imagine how she’ll manage it and that’s always a plus in a series. If you see every twist and turn coming a mile away, what’s the point? Where’s the fun? Where’s the joy, the experience of seeing it all through the character’s eyes as it happens?

Okay, so- Hunter Kiss. Let’s start with this- the world as we know it, is not really the world.  A lot of books start that way and it’s a pretty classic way to start. The world we know is not all there is to know and the author draws back the curtain to include us in this special new view of reality. So far, nothing new in that. And when this curtain is drawn back, it is revealed that demons are real. Also, so far nothing new. Things as far reaching as Buffy the Vampire Slayer have used that. But this one is a bit different, and I’ll tell you why. The person, the one person capable of defending us from the demon hordes is Maxine Kiss, the last Hunter, the last Warden of a dying prison. That prison is here, that prison is Earth. It turns out, humans are so vulnerable to demons, so deeply incapable of defending themselves against them, that our world was turned into a prison just to protect us. And beyond the boundary of our dimension, our world, there are rings of other prisons, holding the demons, with the most harmless closest to us. The “most harmless” being the ones who only possess us, force us to do terrible things and feed off of our pain, just to give you a sense of perspective here. Not that this series is one of those that lovingly dwells on the horror, like some do. Mostly it focuses on Maxine as she tries to protect our world, us, from these creatures as the cracks in the prison walls get larger and start to come crumbling down. She comes from a ten- thousand year old line of hunters, blood bound to five demons who help them, protect them, and fight for them. During the day, these demons live on her skin as tattoos, making her virtually immortal. Like, literally, immortal. You could drop an atomic bomb on her head, bury her alive, set her on fire, push her in front of a bus, and nothing would happen. These are not examples I pulled out of thin air, btw, these are all things that have either happened to her or to women in her bloodline. And when night falls, the demons are free and fight for her. It’s an apocalyptic story, obviously, but it’s also a story of heroics and sacrifice, as well as a love story because obviously she has a love interest and he is also very, very cool and totally worthy to stand by her side.

I do wish that Liu had more of a knack for making things seem epic, but I get that that is a rare gift, I’ve really only read a few authors who could truly pull that off, so I’m trying not to dwell on it too much although it would add so much to the story if she could get just a little of that. As it is, it feels very intimate, obviously, and there’s the sense of one small person against overwhelming odds and you do wonder how she’ll do it, since Maxine is not the bloodthirsty warrior type, and you do truly love all the characters. I just wish that it had more of that epic struggle, grand scale thing going, where you’re reading it going “Holy crap, this is unbelievable” and it just takes your breath away. That said, I still really love this series, and totally recommend it to any and all who are into those kinds of books. I promise, there is no Mary- Sue-ing, a la Laurell K. Hamilton for whom there is just no excuse. Ahem, unless you like Laurell K. Hamilton, in which case I said nothing.