Friday, 5 September 2008

‘Hunter’s Prayer’ – Lilith Saintcrow (Orbit Books)


Although it was a little too much like the film ‘Blade’ for it’s own good I still had a blast reading Lilith Saintcrow’s ‘Night Shift’, the first book in her ‘Jill Kismet’ series. Enough so, in fact, that ‘Hunter’s Prayer’ found itself suddenly perching on the top of the ‘to read pile’ (the pile is very much like a game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’ sometimes, books climb up but they can also slide back down again...)
One thing I found myself wondering was how Saintcrow was going to top all the action and attitude that she had come up in the first book. If ‘Hunter’s Prayer’ is anything to go by then the answer is to make everything bigger and badder with each new book! I’m not sure if this will work long term but it certainly made for a fun read in this instant...

There’s no such thing as an easy day when your job is to hunt down and kill creatures of the ‘nightside’ and things are getting to the point with Jill where Saul (her were-cougar boyfriend) is making serious noises about taking a vacation. First of all though, Jill must find out why eviscerated bodies of prostitutes are turning up around the city. The answer is far more sinister (and deadly) than just another ‘Jack the Ripper’ wannabe, an Elder God is in the process of being invited into Santa Luz and this definitely falls within Jill’s jurisdiction. Has she bitten off a lot more than she can chew though? The answer is a very emphatic yes...

Lets get one thing clear; ‘Hunter’s Prayer’ isn’t a book that will make you think too hard, you’ll be too busy trying to catch your breath as the plot screams along like a Raymond Chandler novel with it’s foot on the pedal and no brakes. A lot of things don’t seem clear to start off with but clues and spectacle keep things ticking along and everything is wrapped up rather nicely by the finale. The only problem I found here was that the finale came across as playing second fiddle to events backstage, this change of focus detracted from all the big stuff going on and (while not rendering them exactly pointless) made those events seem less relevant. Almost like the book should have been about something else entirely...

The ‘Blade Effect’, that I noted in my review of ‘Night Shift’, is still very much there but I thought that ‘Hunter’s Prayer’ made a giant step forward into territory of its own making. The introductions are over meaning that we get to see characters actually moving forward and the consequences of decisions that they have to make (instead of how their past life has affected them). This means that we actually get to see people develop, not least of which is Jill herself. Not only do we see her continued struggle with aspects of her life, as a Hunter, but we also see her relationship with the Hellbreed Perry develop in ways that we perhaps weren’t expecting. Supporting characters also get similar treatment (Perry and Saul in particular) and I’ll be interested to see what directions they go in future books.

The city of Santa Luz (with its hard-bitten and weary police force) also begin to take on an identity of their own and it’s a grimy, noir affair that leaves the reader in no doubt about the streets they’re walking and the dangers on them. It’s not quite up to Mike Carey’s standard but it’s not far off! Saintcrow doesn’t pull any punches and Jill’s reaction to what she sees shows us another side to an already vulnerable character. There’s plenty to get involved in with both the characters and the city that they live in.

It doesn’t come much bigger than fighting an Elder God and I’ll be interested to see if this series can maintain the attitude and adrenalin without descending into self-parody. Despite an ending that didn’t work for me (maybe it will make more sense after I’ve read the next book) there are enough signs that this series is headed in a direction that I’m happy to follow for now.

Eight out of Ten

1 comment:

Jenny said...

I have recently really gotten into reading urban fantasy in a big way. I tried to read the first one in this series but it just didn't flow that well for me and I didn't find the story compelling. But I did read it following Kelly Armstrong and Richelle mead. I consider those to be incredibly easy to read becuase the story just flows and flows. But Lilith Saintcrow for me just seemed to be kind of bleh. I might have to give it another chance though becuase If what your saying is that Hunter's prayer is better than the first one, then what I might do is perseviere if anything just to get the background story.