Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Iron Hunt

by Marjorie M. Liu

cover of The Iron Hunt 

Tattoos used to be the preserve of prison inmates and bikers. Maxine Kiss is neither, but for her they represent both her prison and her lifeline, because hers are alive. By day they sleep under her skin, making her invulnerable. But by night they peel off, taking the form of five little demons, like attack dogs with a fondness for eating metal and listening to Bon Jovi.

Maxine is the last in a long line of Wardens. These are women with special powers who have the task of keeping demons out of the world. These demons are trapped in a prison dimension, but the Veil that keeps them there is weakening. She has to fight to keep them in there place, so if you're hoping for a book with lots of ass-kicking you won't be disappointed.

The story starts with an enigmatic scene featuring zombies and a card game for high stakes. These zombies aren't your usual rotting, incoherent, brain-munching shufflers. They possess and control their hosts, but they look otherwise entirely normal to the outside world. But Maxine and her ilk have a way of seeing the supernatural hiding in everyday life, and of looking directly at someone's aura. Something about Maxine has the zombies spooked, even beyond the fact that it's her mission to slaughter them all.

The mystery deepens when a man dies whilst looking for Maxine. This is unusual because she normally keeps a low profile, and doesn't use her real name. Maxine looks into it with the help of her boyfriend Grant, who has powers of his own. Maxine suspects Grant could pose a threat to our world, with his psychic abilities and his music. Yet she has plenty of other things to worry about whilst investigating a series of strange events. Her mother was keeping something from her and now her "boys", her demonic tattoos, are hiding something as well. A demon who should be her enemy does not hurt her, whilst her protectors act treacherously. Maxine thinks she's found a long-lost family member, but her mother never talked about any of the men in the family.

The Iron Hunt is full of secrets, journeys into dark and dreamy otherworlds, bizarre demons and other strange creatures. It's a lively and original vision, and there's more to it than a succession of high-octane rumbles with freaky supernatural creatures. Maxine doesn't have all the answers, but she does have the right mixture of softness and steel to make her a riveting heroine. Sometimes Marjorie M. Liu goes a little too easy on her protagonist by giving her all the big guns and impressive powers. But this is balanced by Maxine's loneliness, and her uncertainty about who she can trust. It's one woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Romance takes a back seat for the most part, although there are certainly a few mystery men in the novel. However there are tantalising hints that there's going to be a battle for Maxine's affections later on in the series. If the sequels are as tense and vivid as The Iron Hunt, that will be something to savour.

17th May 2010

Book Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Books

    Female Protagonist  

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Review © Ros Jackson