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Read Fragment

I'm a co-blogger at All Things Urban Fantasy, while Read Fragment is where other genres wash ashore.

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A Wild Light - Marjorie M. Liu Review courtesy of All Things Urban Fantasy.

My experience to date with the Hunter Kiss series has been hit or miss. While I greatly enjoyed HUNTER KISS and THE IRON HUNT, I fought to finish DARKNESS COMES over a period of several weeks. Perhaps exacerbated by how often I put it down and picked it up, I found the book confusing and I had a hard time keeping track of Maxine’s progress. In preparation for this review, I reread all the Hunter Kiss short stories and books. When I reread DARKNESS COMES over the course of a weekend, it became apparent to me that the confusion I had experienced on my previous reading was a critical part of the story. Maxine herself is being thrust into a confusing swirl of multi-dimensional events and time periods, and Marjorie Liu manages to convey those emotions without losing the reader entirely. I’m glad I revisited DARKNESS COMES, if only because it further heightened my enjoyment of the book that followed. A WILD LIGHT is one of my favorite books this year, and the entire Hunter Kiss series has been bumped up to my top ten list.

As stated in the book description above, Chapter 2 of A WILD LIGHT opens with Maxine standing over the corpse of her grandfather with no recollection of what took place. Furthermore, it is soon revealed that she has no memories of Grant, the love of her life. While amnesia gambits are among my least favorite literary devices (Why not just tell the reader you want a “do over” on your back-story?), in Liu’s hands this opening unfolds to become an integral part of two of my favorite facets of the book, the first being the long overdue courtship between Maxine and Grant.

Maxine’s relationship with Grant Cooperon takes place largely “off camera.” I saw their beginnings in the short story Hunter Kiss, but their attraction up until this point in the series has a largely “trust me, we’re made for each other” flavor. Their relationship has a heavy foundation in their respective magical natures, which makes it less easy for me to relate to as a reader. With amnesia, Maxine reacts to Grant in ways both believable and original. In the “believable” category, there is a certain echo of their first meeting, the distrust and attraction rolled into one. One of my favorite details is Maxine’s reaction to Grant’s eyes, two parts attraction and one part “Dude, stop staring at me.” We also get to enjoy aspects of their life together as Maxine experiences them for the first time, all over again. The way her sweet boys lean against Grant’s legs for greetings and comfort resonated strongly with me. Up until A WILD LIGHT, my favorite love story in the series was between Maxine and her living-tattoo demon boys, Zee, Dek, Mal, Aaz, and Raw. A perfect mix of childlike enthusiasm and demonic mayhem, so many of my laugh or “awww” out loud moments in the series came from the boys and their relationship with “sweet Maxine.” The boys are Maxine’s family, her children and brothers and uncles all rolled into one. Their trust and affection is the strongest vote of confidence Grant could have hoped for. In Liu’s hands amnesia is not just a device that retreads old ground and brings Maxine and Grant back to where they started, she gives them a true clean slate. First impressions, a first kiss, and all the uncertainty, poignancy and zest of falling in love.

A WILD LIGHT allows Zee and the boys to shine, and highlights my second favorite aspect of the book: Marjorie Liu’s story building. Rather than feeling as if Maxine is being pulled forward on rails towards an inevitable destiny, Liu creates the sense that there is no one right answer. In fact, I think much of the difficulty I had in reading DARKNESS COMES was the result of Liu’s masterful portrayal of Maxine’s confusing world. With flavors of Jane Eyre meets Dr. Who, Maxine moves through both time and dimensions, and the reader is very much along for the ride. In my opinion, the majority of Urban Fantasy books can be read from a certain mental distance, even as you’re getting a first person perspective of the protagonist’s life. I usually feel like I’m putting together clues and following along (or ahead) of the main character’s logic. By this generalization, the Hunter Kiss series doesn’t read like a “typical” Urban Fantasy. Liu’s writing contains a poetry and mystery that reminds me of classical fantasy, or straight up classics. While this most recent Hunter Kiss novel does shed some light on the nuts and bolts of the forces in Maxine’s life, it more powerfully illuminates a realistic world with no one right answer. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, but in the meantime, A WILD LIGHT has given me a lot to mull over and discuss.

Sexual Content: An explicit sex scene.