Hunter and Fox

Hunter and Fox by Philippa Ballantine, Shifted World #1

In a world that is in constant shifting, where mountains can change to plains and then to lakes, Talyn is the hunter for the Caisah, and a wreck of a once-proud person. She has lost her people, the Vaerli, and her soul working for the man who destroyed her people. All unknowing, she carries within her a Kindred, a chaos creature from the center of the earth that wants to help bring the Vaerli back to power. However, she has lost the ability to communicate with it.

She must also deal with the machinations of Kelanim, the mistress of Caisah, who out of fear will do anything to bring Talyn down.

Little does the Hunter know that salvation is looking for her, and it wears the face of gentleness and strength. Finn is a teller of tales who carries his own dreadful secret. He sets out to find answers to his path but ends up in the city of Perilous and Fair where he meets Talyn. He knows the danger and yet is drawn to her. Their fates are bound together.

Meanwhile, the Hunter's lost brother Byre is searching for his own solution to the terrible curse placed on the Vaerli. He sets forth on a treacherous journey of his own, which will intersect in the most unlikely place with that of Talyn and Finn.

The ramifications of this encounter will be felt by all the people in Conhaero, from the lost Vaerli to the Caisah on his throne.

Philippa Ballantine is an author that is well known to me, I have read two of her solo books Geist and Specter in The Books of the Order series as well as the first two books in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences which she co-authored with her husband Tee Morris. These series were quite something different in terms of genre with the first fantasy and the second being a steampunk series, but they did have one thing in common. They were highly enjoyable and inventive books and I was therefore eager to have found out that Pyr was publishing her new series: Shifted Worlds. With Hunter and Fox being the first book in the series. 

Hunter and Fox is and high fantasy adventure than somehow reminded me of the Chaos Kinght series of Erin Hoffman. Bring back the typical high fantasy elements but with a complete new and fresh spin to it. The first things that will undoubtedly stand out for you as well is the whole world that surrounds Hunter and Fox. It something that I have truly come to enjoy of Philippa Ballantine writing in the Books of the Order, it feel immaculate and large and detailed. The way you are introduced into it feels quite magical and is for me owed to the way that Philippa Ballantine's uses her crafty writing style. The way she start exposing the world bit by bit, either by several characters and how they interact with it or solely based on the history of it, it feels like you are right there. When I read about the first "shift" of the world I was like wow, am I reading this correctly. World building is definitely Philippa Ballantine's forte. 

The focus in Hunter and Fox is on a set of multiple characters. The first is Talyn the Dark, one of the last Vaerli (one of the races of Shifted Worlds). Talyn is the hunter for Caisah and when I say hunter it is literal, Talyn is a "bounty hunter" tasked with hunting down persons for Caisah that he wants to get rid off. Armed with pistol ans sword a top her nykur a sort off demonic hellish horse, green skin, horns and razor-sharp hooves. Now the relation between Talyn and Caisah is questionable. Caisah took away the magics of the Vaerli and Talyn made a deal by helping him that Caisah would find a solution, so Talyn is actually more or less the toy of Caisah and in certain parts of the story you this aspect come to show. Though Talyn can put on quite a mask for others deep down you learn as a reader that she is troubled, she feels bad for her and her people and wants to do the best. I found that Philippa Ballantine has created an complex and intricate relation between just Talyn en Caisdah. And this whole puts Talyn in a great spotlight, she shows that she is determined, confident and a force to be reckoned with but also gives Talyn this deeper fragiler air as well.  

A second character that you follow is the brother of Talyn, Byreniko. There isn't a direct link  between brother and sister, they live completely different lives, instead Byreniko searches for his own solution for the problem of the Vaerli and ventures is treacherous territories. Philippa Ballantine creates in Byre's character a quite different persona than his sister Talyn, being raised by humans Byre has a different take on the things and how they should be solved. Another character that makes up an important part of the story is Finnbarr, a bard. Finn lives up to his profession in a great manner, as a bard, a spinner of tales, you learn more and more about the Harrowing (the event that caused the Vaerli to loose their powers, as well as learn more about the world in particular. Talyn is takes to hunt down Finn, but there is some chemistry going on, well at least from one side and makes their relation quite complex. I was pleased to see there was a strong interplay between both Talyn and Finn, especially when you look closely at their pasts and how they are both troubles. Finn remains a bit more obscure along the lines then Talyn though. But one thing does remain between them and that is both their aversion towards Caisah. 

In the lines of the Epic Fantasy theme there is, also, of course magic! Well, what remains of it. The magic has been taken away from the Vaerli, they had six Gifts, but the ritual of Harrowing took away their powers and now are left with the aches and pains having felt magic but unable to use it any longer. But this doesn't mean that their is no magic at all. I really got the magical feeling through the Shifting world and the immortal spirits of the Kindred. There are some great interventions with the Kindred that felt just amazing. In certain encounter Philippa Ballantine managed to create a suspenseful situation that made me shift to the edge of my seat. I am very eager to see how this aspect will unfold as the series progresses, both the aspects of the Kindred and the magic of the Gifts holds a lot of potential. Besides the Kindred and Gifts, there is also another type of magic, Blood Magic! This magic didn't suffer from the Harrowing and is quite flashy and graphic, good stuff right there!

The story of Hunter and Fox is full of the classic fantasy elements but with Philippa Ballantine's delicate twists. I have to mention that Hunter and Fox isn't an easy read and you really have to pay close attention to the storyline, but once you are into it you will be enjoying it quite some and more. Though the story start of from a lot of separated points of view, the closer you get to the ending, things really start to happen and unfold and relate to each other. The characters and the story come to their rights by Philippa Ballantine's unique and lyrical prose that adds another dimension to the term fantasy. Hunter and Fox leaves the story of the Shifted Worlds on the brink with something bound to happen. Just like her other stories Hunter and Fox is unique, refreshing and well worth reading. Book two Kindred and Wings is was out August 6th.

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