There is something intrinsically magical about exploring the worlds of books, regardless of whether or not they actually have magic themselves. I think anyone with the desire to create a world from the ground up, building cultures and languages, pasts for characters and religions, all of it is highly impressive and reminds me of first exploring the world of Middle Earth. In the case of F.T. McKinstry’s The Hunter’s Rede (and subsequent books, though I will only talk about the first one here) the level of intricacy and completeness is really quite fascinating. To be able to dive into a world with such depth and with characters who both reflect and transcend real life, is a wonderful thing indeed.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This first book in the series follows Lorth, an assassin in a land that is not his own, as he is called back home and faces the consequences of his decisions, and the scheming of the world around him. While he is not a wizard, he has many of the same talents, and these talents get him into rather a lot of trouble. He must unravel a plot by an invading army and gets caught up in two murders which have been laid at his feet. To make matters worse, it seems as though the gods themselves are involved.
This story is one of those that weaves together individual threads to create something magnificent. I really enjoyed seeing the pieces come to light and the final picture revealed, especially in light of the worldbuilding. I think the plot plays a variation on a theme of reluctant hero returning to face his past, and while I am generally fond of such stories, this one seems to transcend many of the one’s I’ve read in the past to stand on the level of some of the greats.
2. Thoughts on the characters
As far as heros go, Lorth is probably one of my favourite. He is a slightly-grumpy lone wolf sort who chafes at arbitrary rules placed on him, but also has a very firm sense of doing things that do not violate the dictates of his god, the Old One. Lorth is, I think one of the better developed characters I’ve read in a long while and I find his many facets fascinating. He manages to convey all the traits of a real person such that he jumps off the page when reading him. This book is the perfect introduction to him, and the subsequent books really flesh him out, though he doesn’t actually need it.
The other characters in this story are equally three dimensional. They go about their lives as people with true desires and motivations, with no need to explain their actions beyond a reasonable level. The characters have mystery and they have purpose, and I really like them all. Though, I will admit that Lorth, Eaglin and Leda are most certainly my favourites.
3. Favourite part
Ooh, this is a really hard thing to choose, since I really did like this entire book. I think perhaps, if i had to choose my favourite bit, I would say that the confrontation between Lorth and Eaglin probably rises to the surface. Not because I like seeing our protagonist in such dire straits, but because it displayed his personality in the most perfect sense. His and Eaglin’s I think. The potential for things to be much worse was definitely high, but Lorth turns it into something more or less par for the course, without rolling over and giving up. Eventually Eaglin admits his mistake, but even that really makes the scene what it is.
I can’t actually say a whole lot more than that because of spoilers, but it is the sort of thing that evokes a great deal of sympathy for the characters.
Honestly, I think the only critique I have is to do with the various geographies involve. Mostly, I had a hard time following some of the names of places, but that doesn’t actually have much to do with the book, since a map was provided, but my own brain being completely incapable of determining anything remotely close to a direction. So, it’s not really a critique and more of a comment on my own brain being severely navigationally challenged. I did like the names of all the places, though. Very fun, from a linguistic perspective.
Overall, I would say that The Hunter’s Rede is probably one of my most favourite fantasy novels of all time, which is saying something because I have read rather a lot of fantasy novels. The language, the characters, the plot, it is all really wonderful and I am likely to be reading them again, and again, and again. Excellent book!