Reading the Hunter Kiss series is rather like having a strange but wonderful dream. You’re sometimes confused about exactly what is happening and why, but the vistas are breathtaking, the emotions are intense, and when you wake up, the only words that come to mind are “What a ride!”
In the hands of a lesser author, confusion can be a dealbreaker that leads to the book hitting the wall. But Marjorie M. Liu is not a lesser author. Her poetic prose and beautifully drawn character relationships keep you reading even when you — and Maxine — aren’t quite sure of what’s going on.
A Wild Light begins with the murder of Maxine’s grandfather, Jack. Maxine wakes to find Jack dead, and it appears that he has been killed with a blade that only Maxine can safely wield. Maxine has no memory of the murder, or of her boyfriend Grant. We follow Maxine as she tries to solve Jack’s murder and as Grant does his best to piece their relationship back together. At about the halfway point, A Wild Light goes from good to unputdownable when Liu drops a huge bombshell about the true nature of Maxine and of the “boys,” her five guardian demons. We also get some tantalizing glimpses of Maxine’s mysterious father.
Maxine faces some tough decisions that will determine the kind of person she will be. She is tempted by unimaginable power. Pitted against that is love: not just the romantic variety (though Maxine and Grant are one of my favorite UF couples) but also Maxine’s love for the boys, her late mother, Jack, and her friends at the Coop.
The phrase “a wild light” is used twice, once to describe something terrifying, the second time to describe something sublime. I think this juxtaposition is absolutely intentional on Liu’s part.
I recommend this novel, and the Hunter Kiss series in general, to readers looking for something a little different in urban fantasy. If you like sumptuous prose and lots of symbolism and metaphor, and if you don’t mind the occasional moment of confusion, this is the series for you.