Science fiction and fantasy
The Hunter And The Marked
by John Beachem
Storms of Vengeance. He's hampered by a broken leg, but that won't stop him digging up evidence. Toren is convinced that the mystery isn't solved yet. The city is threatened with imminent destruction, so he must race against time to untangle the politics and lies behind this plot.
Meanwhile the young soldier Calton is slogging his way through thick jungle in the company of a motley group of adventurers. They are heading towards the source of the strange weather in the hope of heading off whatever disaster is about to befall Terne. The jungle is full of dangers though, and the mixed group of soldiers and civilians may not all have the determination required to reach their destination.
The group is already tired and divided when they meet Graeson, a wandering Hunter. He is sworn to track down and kill those magic users known as the Marked. The exhausted travellers mistrust Graeson and each other, and his arrival puts a strain on their fragile community. Will the group fracture? And why has a loner like Graeson chosen to travel in their company anyway?
This novel has all the elements of a quest-based fantasy, combined with some juicy mysteries. There are a lot of characters, and this gives readers plenty to get their teeth into in terms of figuring out what everyone's motivations really are. But on the other hand the multitude of different personalities means having a shallower appreciation of each one. As a result they're a little less memorable than they could be, although it's not so marked that they're interchangeable ciphers.
The pacing is also a little slow in the middle of the novel, when the group seem to be stuck in the middle of the jungle for a long time. There's plenty of action as they are set upon by various bizarre horrors, but at the same time there's not a lot of plot movement. In particular there's one character who appears to be as dumb as a post, who constantly dithers when swift, decisive action is obviously the best course.
However John Beachem is actually very good at misdirection. The story has some good twists but it's not until the very end that you appreciate how clever they are, and how he's been playing with your expectations the whole time.
The proofreading is dodgy, which is something that bothers me like nails on a chalkboard. On the whole though The Hunter And The Marked is a cracking old-school fantasy that hooks you in with intriguing mysteries, moral quandaries and exciting adventure. It may slump a little in the middle, but the ending is impressive so it's well worth the journey.
13th December 2010
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Review © Ros Jackson
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