Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Fae: The Wild Hunt review

    Graham Austin-King, having checked out my website, was kind enough to send me a sample of his work in order to review. Reading the first book, I promptly purchased the first book I'd already read and then purchased the remaining two volumes of the series at full cost. It was me voting with my dollars, so to speak.

    Fae: The Wild Hunt is an interesting book and is somewhat difficult to classify. I'm inclined to say it's a Young Adult Fantasy but it's a good deal more grounded, moody, and strange than the majority of works which would fall underneath those categories. I think it's probably best described as Dark Fantasy as a result with it reminding me a good deal of Changeling: The Lost. That role-playing game being about those kidnapped by the fae, tortured by them, and then dealing with the aftermath thereof.

    The book is divided into three story arcs. The first follows Devin, a young boy who escapes his abusive father with his mother only to be orphaned in a chance encounter with the fae. The second follows Kloss, a would-be Reaver who wants to prove his metal as a warrior. The third beat deals with Selena, the intelligent wife of a completely incapable Duke forced to deal with a looming crisis.

    Graham Austin-King has a gift for making evocative archetypes so you really feel you're living in Devin's village and experiencing plausible, if not realistic, life in the Middle Ages. The little bit of realism like domestic squabbles, unrequited love, and other business grounds the story better than many stories. Here, the plucky young hero doesn't win the girl over the rich jerk because that's just not how life works sometimes and the story is all the better for it.

    The politics in the book are surprisingly clear and precise yet intelligent as well as realistic. There's the Continent full of rich farmland but poor in warriors while the pseudo-Vikings have poor land but plenty of warriors. What this means is obvious to any historian as we see a full-scale invasion which has the potential to destroy the region, or at least depopulate it of anyone but Bjornmen. The locals are capable of putting up a much bigger fight than they first appear, though, which is good since too often it seems like these invasions just roll over everyone who resists.

    I think the book could have benefited from a little story-tightening with keeping the perspectives always from Devin, Kloss, and Selena or even less but I never stopped enjoying the stories. I also think the tale made Kloss a bit unsympathetic as it's hard for me to care about his story when he's butchering and murdering innocent farmers as part of his journey to becoming a "real man." I doubt it will happen but I hope he gets slaughtered by the fae or some of the farmers he's trying to kill during the next couple of books.

    The Fae, themselves, don't appear until much later in the book and I tend to view them in the same manner as I do the Others in A Song of Ice and Fire. They're interesting monsters, true, but I prefer the conflict among the humans. I could easily have seen this as a story purely about the invasion of the Bjornmen.  Despite this, I like the depiction of the Fae who are treated as mysterious, alien, and cruel.

    It's difficult to say who I enjoyed the most of the main characters. Devin is fun but I didn't much care for his entitled attitude toward his love interest. She's moved on, Devin, let it go. Kloss is a very cool protagonist but loses all sympathy once he becomes a murderous brigand. Selena has a very interesting story but it just doesn't have enough appearances in the books to talk at length about. Despite this, I loved them all and can't say which story should have elements removed to let another shine. The characters' flaws make them interesting and even when I'm wishing them ill, I'm appreciating they're not shining paragons of justice and wisdom.

    In conclusion, this seems like an excellent series and I'm eager to read the rest of the books. While lacking in the sex, violence, and profanity so common to grimdark works--I think a lot of fans of the genre would enjoy this.


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