Genres: fantasy, science fiction
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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.
Oh, Hunter. You had so much potential. A book in which all of the monsters of our nightmares, myths, and legends are real and a teenage girl has the magic to fight them? I’m in. A book that’s a sort of post-apocalyptic, futuristic dystopian, fantasy mash up. How could I resist being immediately drawn in by a premise that promises battle with dragons, vampires, Fae, and all manner of legendary creatures all in one book? Yes, please. Sign me up. Unfortunately, the execution of this idea left much to be desired.
In Joy’s world, it has been 200 some years since the Diseray, an apocalyptic event that unleashed the monsters of myth into our world. Society has had some time to recover and rebuild, and there is at least one major city, though if there are more I have no idea. World building isn’t really a strength here. Joy is a Hunter, a human born with the ability to do magic that can fight the Othersiders. Raised in an isolated mountain community, she’s now on her way to Apex to join the capitol Hunting forces and protect the city.
It’s in fact on this train ride that the novel opens up with a nearly 30+ infodump on the Diseray, magic, and how Hunting works. It’s delivered so dryly and is spectacularly uninteresting. There are all sorts of monsters around. Hunters can call magical Hounds from the Otherside to aid them in battle. It’s been a few hundred years since the Diseray. That’s about what we’re informed of, but it took 30 pages. Also, apparently Hunting is something of a spectator sport for the capitol civilians. Hunters are followed with cameras 24/7 and each have their own channel devoted to their Hunting expeditions and social lives. I suppose it’s an attempt at a commentary our reality TV obsessed culture but it’s not handled with any particular grace. It just comes across as being another poor Hunger Games imitator.
In addition the reality TV commentary, there is a thread of social justice commentary that isn’t particularly well executed. Cits who live in the center of Apex are relatively safe and guarded by Hunters. They live lives of luxury and have a reality TV-obsessed culture. The farther away you get from the city center the less and less protected you’ll be and the more run down the neighborhood. It’s all rather inelegantly told in that showy “message” way that the worst of YA can offer sometimes. It’s not the message, the problem lies in the way it’s told. Also, what ever gets done about it in this book? A fat lot of nothing.
The plot is formulaic, uninteresting, and completely derivative of more successful entries in the genre. Nothing of importance happens throughout the majority of the book. It’s just battle after battle with various creatures, none of which are particularly engaging or exciting. How can battles with a variety of mythical monsters not be exciting or engaging?!? The blurb on the physical ARC I have promises an “act of sabotage” that upends Joy’s world. That act doesn’t happen until 95% into the book. I am not kidding. That is how little much of anything happens in this book. There is allegedly political maneuvering to worry about (Joy’s uncle is a high up politician) but it is both clunky and predictable. And there is incredible convenience of what little plot there is. Check out this exchange:
“How do you become Elite? I asked….Finally, it was Mark who turned to me. “Yes. It’s actually pretty simple. You petition the Armorer for Hunter Elite.”
Oh, is that all? She then engages in a sort of brief combat trial that is very much supposed to give you the excitement of The Hunger Games but falls flat in every way. This takes place at about 90% into the book. This is as far as the plot advances.
The characterization is fine, I guess. Joy herself is a nice enough girl, but not in any way remarkable in personality. I think she is purposely supposed to be a “normal girl” (but with powers!), but the character suffers for it. There’s no distinct personality there other than “nice” and “decent.” Joy has a nice cast of supporting characters who were interesting enough on occasion. I liked her Hunting trainer Karlee, the gruff sort of lovable “soldier with a secret heart” type. I also appreciated that Joy had a rather refreshing completely platonic friendship with a boy in this book. Although there was this rather…odd narration:
“I picked one that was most covered up, to spare Knight, although I toyed for just a littie lbit with the notion of wearing the one that was mostly straps….But I liked Knight and I didn’t want him to be so embarrassed that he went and drowned because he was trying so hard not to look at my boobs and butt.”
Uh…okay. [s]I mean, it’s super nice of Joy to have so much consideration of Knight like that.[/s]
I’m sure you’re wondering, “But IS there romance?” You’ll be pleased to know that as soon as Joy steps off the train and into Apex she is greeted by a super cute boy who is obviously going to be her romantic interest. She mentions the blue-ness of his eyes three times within 2 paragraphs. This is how you know. Josh is a nice and fine enough person but suffers the same characterization problems as Joy. Except we spend far less time with him. Sure, he’s nice, but he only features in a few scenes. When Joy and Josh go out on a date (yes, he asked her after meeting her just the once) and have a nice time why should I care? There is no chemistry or spark in the romance. It. needed a way slower and subtle development. Alas. It was there just to be there.
The whole thing is a rather lackluster attempt at telling a dystopian story. This might be harsh but the impression I couldn’t help but shake was that this was a paint by numbers, phone it in effort on the part of an established author trying to get in on the dystopian “trend.” Derivative, uninteresting, and completely lacking forward momentum in plot, Hunter is one you can skip without regrets.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.