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Review: Hunter and Fox by Philippa Ballantine

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Hunter and Fox
Author: Philippa Ballantine 
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Pyr
Shifted World #1
ISBN: #978-1616146238
Genre: Fantasy
Format(s): Paperback (340 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Publisher

About the book:

     In a world that is in constant shifting, where mountains can change to plains, and then to lakes, Talyn is the Hunter for the Caisah, and a wreck of a once-proud person. She has lost her people, the Vaerli, and her soul working for the man who destroyed her people. All unknowing, she carries within her a Kindred, a chaos creature from the center of the earth that wants to help bring the Vaerli back to power. However, she has lost the ability to communicate with it.
     Little does the Hunter know that salvation is looking for her, and it wears the face of gentleness and strength. Finn is a teller of tales who carries his own dreadful secret. He sets out to find answers to his path but ends up in the city of Perilous and Fair where he meets Talyn. He knows the danger and is yet drawn to her. Their fates will be bound together.
     Meanwhile, the Hunter’s lost brother Byre is searching for his own solution to the terrible curse placed on the Vaerli. He sets forth on a treacherous journey of his own, which will intersect in the most unlikely place with that of Talyn and Finn. The ramifications of this encounter will be felt by all the people in Conhaero, from the lost Vaerli to the Caisah on his throne.

What Im talking about:

     Hunter and Fox is a true fantasy and with that comes a complex new world full of magic and inhabited by beings with an array of abilities. Key to the story are are: 1) the primary heroine, Talyn the Dark (think Xena).  She is Caisah’s bounty hunter. She is Vaerli, a once powerful race with seven magical gifts, to include the ability to “move and see” through time.  2) The bad guy, Caisah, ruler of Conhaero. His power is supreme and his sanity borders on madness. He has broken the once powerful Vaerli, stealing their powers and making Talyn his killer.  3) The understated hero, Finbarr (Finn) the Fox. He is a talespinner with a gift for storytelling. He follows Talyn with love in his heart, telling others the stories of the Vaerli, hoping to make a difference. 4) The martyr hero, Byreniko, Talyn’s brother. He has wandered for years, never knowing his people, but now is ready to take a stand and fight for freedom.
     Ms. Ballantine has created an intricately detailed world, full of magic and mysticism. She spent the first three or so chapters expertly laying the foundation for her world, detailing not only the conflicts and points of the plot, but giving the reader just enough of this world to understand enough to be captivated.
     Plain and simple, Hunter and Fox is a elaborate and involving tale. On the surface it appears to cover the potential rebellion against the evil oppressor, Caisah, and finding freedom for the Vaeril and all of the inhabitant of Conhaero. The Variel were once the dominate species; they had great power and were widely respected. Now they are shells with their gifts removed during the Harrowing, and even worse, they feared because of Talyn. Our three primary “heroes,” Talyn, Byreniko, and Finn, must go on his/her own journey to open their minds and hearts so that they may find truth and direction. They are watched over by the original inhabitants of this world, The Kindred, who are like spiritual beings of the earth. They are sort of helping, but not interfering.
     Along the way, we are introduced to several minor characters that help foster the rebellion. One key figure is Retira, Talyn and Byre’s father. He has been gone from their lives for nearly 300 years, then shows up to warn Talyn she’s going down the wrong path (and basically disowns her), then joins Byre and pushes him on a dangerous journey. He clearly has his own agenda that he is not sharing. It made me distrust him and I was constantly wondering if he was truly who he claimed to be.
     While Caisah plays a significant roll in the overall story – he is the cause of much of the current plight of the people of Conhaero, after the first few chapters, we don’t see much of him. His motivations are unclear, but his thirst to control and enjoyment in displaying his power are evident. A perfect example is in a quiet scene where Caisah insists his “Hawk” ride with her “Master” and his mistress, Kelanim. Caisah makes a show that he controls the fearsome Hunter, but he also enjoys the conflict.

She [Kelamin] sat next to the Caisah glaring with fiery eyes at Talyn. He like it that way. He moved everything in his world to conflict; from warring tribes to bickering women.

     Unlike more current urban fantasies where the setting is typically familiar, Hunter and Fox is a traditional fantasy where the entire world is built from the ground up. The world created by Ms. Ballantine is enchanting, full of mysticism and fantastical races. She does an excellent job of not only detailing each, but giving us enough background and history to understand and recognize the important changes coming into play. It took some conscious effort to learn about each, but I never felt that the details were spoon-feed or forced. Although complex, the flow of information was seamless.
     As the story progresses, the intricacies of the story increases by leaps and bounds. Hunter and Fox is about the journeys of these individuals as they try to find their way to a better place. It had the feel of an epic fantasy; a complex world on the brink of massive change. The time of oppression is coming to and end, and we are witnessing the start of something new. Unfortunately, we never got to find out what that new world order is. This book was only the first “chapter” of the saga, and I have to admit, I was disappointed. It was a long journey to get through this book and to end without conclusion was difficult to swallow.
     This story requires time and energy; it’s not a quick read, nor is it light. It is, however, an exciting and involved fantasy. For those like me that enjoy fantasy, Hunter and Fox is worth the read, but be aware that you are getting yourself into something larger than one book. I eagerly await what comes next.

My Rating:

Liked it – recommend (B+)

Purchase Info:

Hunter and Fox (A Shifted World Novel)
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