Monday, August 4, 2008

Hunter Kiss & The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu

What?: Hunter Kiss, a short story in the Wild Thing paranormal anthology (is that cover gorgeous or what?) It's a prequel to the novel The Iron Kiss.
Marjorie M. Liu. Also known for her Dirk & Steele romance series- the first is "Tiger Eye".
Where? (Genre): Urban fantasy/paranormal. The Iron Kiss is the first of a brand-new series.

Romance/Sex Level?: While Hunter Kiss is in what's basically a paranormal romance anthology, the romance is much more laid back than most and secondary to the main plot. The Iron Kiss really contains no romance what-so-ever, so going into the book expecting lots of steamy love scenes will be disappointing.
The Meat: While I have Liu books in my TBR, The Iron Kiss is actually my first book by this author. I found "Wil
d Thing" at my local UBS *after* I already started "Iron", so I was in the interesting kerfuffle of reading the prequel AFTER the first "chapter"- George Lucas would have been proud! Factoring that in, I don't think it hurt the reading experience for me. While I still recommend reading the short story before the book, I was still fully able to follow everything going on in book- HOWEVER. The plot is one where events start taking place before it's fully explained- and what events they are! We have zombies- who's name is explained in the short story, as these aren't your run-of-the-mill George Romero zombies- a modern day pied piper (but for possessed "zombies") and adorably demonic tattoos, aka The Boys, (which are passed down mother to daughter in the Kiss family) that make our heroine virtually indestructible.
It's a darn good thing she has then, too. A veil separates the world we know, and one containing a blood red sea that's teeming with lost souls and demons who long escape that realm and live in ours. Sadly (for both us AND them) the only way to "cross over" here is to take possession of a humans body- usually someone weak in some capacity, physically or mentally. While us muggle humans may just think someone has turned into a jerk or picked up a drug addiction, Maxine Kiss can literally see the
demon form playing puppet master inside the human- it's up to her to un-zombiefy them.
The plot is packed to the gills, but Liu manages to keep everything very clear and the action is always moving at a satisfying clip. While it's certainly no horror novel,
The Iron Kiss does contain scenes of The Boys dispatching the zombies in a number of disturbing ways- though I gotta admit, sometimes it's pretty funny too. They're little black cuddly creatures that can eat something much larger than themselves, then burp loudly afterwards. After that, I started imaging them as...

Nibbler, from Futurama. Awww!

The tragic drawback to her protective tattoos is we are told that eventually Maxine will HAVE to have a daughter (to the point that The Boys will force her if she doesn't eventually get pregnate, yikes) and once she reaches they'll transfer to her. Literally the minute after transfer, Maxine will be vunerable and will be murdered- just like her mother and her mother before her and so on. We are shown glimpses of Maxine's mother (and even a wonderful scene with her grandmother), who is so cool she could have a successful series herself. Liu has made Maxine wonderfully flawed, so much so that when compared to her mother it seems almost unfair.
The relationship between Maxine and her boyfriend have a relationship that can best be described as "cool". They don't talk much, and while they have sex occasionally and always have each others back, they seem mainly like friends with benefits. Reading the short story sets up their relationship much better, by just reading
Iron Kiss one might see no point to their relationship at all.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book- the world building was wonderful and unique and it was refreshing to have a heroine who wasn't flawless and sure of her every action. She constantly second guesses herself (especially when comparing herself to her confident, capable mother) and she's disappointed in herself for letting her training go and depending solely on The Boys. I'm looking forward VERY much to the next book in the series, and I highly recommend this to fans of the genre and the author.
Skip To the End!: Overall rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars. The stories were original with refreshing twists included into the staples I love so dearly in paranormal and urban fantasy series.

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