Wild Thing (2007) is the anthology that first introduces Maxine Kiss, the new heroine the author is featuring in her new book, The Iron Hunt. The anthology also features stories from Maggie Shayne (who headlines this book along with Liu) and authors to watch out for: Meljean Brook and Alyssa Day. This review will focus only on Marjorie M. Liu’s novella, “Hunter Kiss.”
The main reason why I picked up this anthology is because of the recent release of The Iron Hunt (2008), the first in a new series. As I was reading The Iron Hunt, I found myself thrust straight into the story and its characters without much introduction. This provided for a confusing start so I put it down. I decided to backtrack and start at the beginning. Some potential readers may not do that much but I am interested in reading this series because it features an unusual heroine and has a interesting premise and I am always looking for something different.
In “Hunter Kiss”, the author introduces us to female demon hunter Maxine Kiss. Maxine is not human. I don’t know what she is really. However, during the day, demons are wrapped around her entire body like tattoos from head to toe. At night, they peel away from her skin, thereby making her human and vulnerable. The “boys” as she refers to them are her armor and are passed down the line from mother to daughter. It is a centuries old tradition with the women in her family. Maxine must ensure the survival of her “boys” by passing them along to her daughter one day. It is a death sentence for her when that happens because once her armor of protection is no longer there, she becomes a target of the demons she hunts. It is what happened to her mother and what will happen to her one day, too.
This is a rather bizarre premise but you must hand it to Ms. Liu for branching out further than the usual paranormal story. If you have plans to read The Iron Hunt then this novella is almost a necessity unless you’re one of those readers who can wait patiently for the author to finally explain things. I am not one of those readers. Moving on. As for the world building, here is my understanding of it. There are certain barriers or “prisons” in this world that keep demons out. However, there have been cracks made into this “barrier” that allows demons to come through, making the “prison veil” weak. Maxine Kiss is the only hunter of her kind who kills demons. She is the one and only thing that stands between demons and their human hosts.
But what about the demons that are with Maxine? What makes them so different? Well, since they’ve been passed down from generation to generation, she considers them “family.” After all, they protect her and make her invincible. The only one who really has any dialogue is Zee and he mostly speaks in riddles. The others just lurk or melt into the shadows. There are other elements to this world that the author introduces but I will let you discover them on your own.
Hunter Kiss starts off quickly but its job is more or less an introductory set-up into this unusual world and hints at what is to come in the next book. A quick run down of the plot: Maxine runs into a flute player in Seattle and saves his life. Demons or as she refers to them, “zombies” have made him a target. Grant Cooperon is a ex-man of the cloth, a man of faith, who walks with a cane. He uses his flute playing to change the auras of bad people or demons into something “different than what they were meant to be.” Angelic demons? There is a “demon queen” who they refer to as “Blood Mama” (snicker) who has some power over demons beyond the prison veil. However, there’s a war coming. A demon much worse than anyone has ever seen before. The threat of this “coming war” has me interested. So, score. She has hooked me and I will be reading The Iron Hunt next.
I know this is long so I will wrap it up saying that this novella felt rushed but that can’t be helped since this is only a short story. Second, the romance, I’m not sure I am on board with that. The hero is not very appealing to me and that has nothing to do with his being handicapped. The romance was rushed and the connection the two felt for each other felt contrived. What I enjoyed more was this peculiar world this author has created so I’d say if you’re interested in reading Marjorie M. Liu’s latest and newest series, I’d locate a used copy or a library copy of this anthology first to give you a taste of this new world she has created. My grade, C.