Sunday, June 11, 2017

Book Review: “Huntress”

     A writer who deliberately produces explicitly Christian fiction can get pretty lonely. There aren’t many such books worthy of your time. Most Christian fiction is excessively preachy, takes wholesale liberties with Christian theocosmogony, or is execrably written...sometimes all three at once. Any of the three can spell death for the story’s embedded theme, to say nothing of the effect on the reader’s reading pleasure.

     That makes it an occasion of great pleasure to introduce Julie Hall.

     Miss Hall exhibits some stylistic faults that are typical of the fledgling novelist. Inappropriate lead-in participial constructions; wrong choice of time-sequence-designation words; an occasional ambiguity of dialogue attribution. I notice such things; it’s my personal curse. But I’m sure she’ll unlearn them with practice, and anyway, they didn’t keep me from hugely enjoying this half-adventure, half-romance romp through a fanciful afterlife.

     Miss Hall’s fantasy of the afterlife hints at a basis in the Christian mythos, but isn’t completely explicit about it. However, most of the usual features are there, though two exceptions are notable above all others:

  1. There’s no role for the Redeemer as of yet;
  2. The dead have jobs, and rather demanding jobs at that.

     Jobs in the afterlife! With assignments, designated teams, and a hierarchy to report to! There are probably status meetings now and then, too. Well, if you’re going to write a fantasy of the afterlife, yet retain as much as possible of the Christian framework, you have to make “adjustments” like that. And as I’ve already said, Miss Hall has crafted a highly enjoyable tale – so much so that I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel, which will become available on June 13.

     Much to her surprise, protagonist Audrey finds herself assigned to a combat role – against demons, of course – and she’s required to train like the dickens for it. Along the way she discovers both a quirk of romantic attraction in the afterlife and that she has a special role even among the demon hunters. (It’s a bit of a head-scratcher to imagine that God would need humans to take a role in fighting demons, but hey, this is a fantasy.) Her progress with both of these occupies her more thoroughly than she expects. Her prolonged inability to remember her mortal life adds complications and a unique poignancy to the story. More I cannot say without dissipating the mystery around why Audrey has been chosen for her job as a demon huntress and her special part within that job.

     One feature of Huntress stands out sufficiently to give it special mention: Miss Hall’s use of the Christian motif of temptation. Her demons don’t have the ability to affect the material world directly. They’re engaged in striving to sway vulnerable humans by suggestion, tempting them to commit evil deeds, just as in standard Christian doctrine. Heaven’s hunters combat the demons in a paraphysical way, specifically to prevent them from exercising such sway. This is entirely consistent with the role of the demonic in Christian thought, and a notable contrast with tales such as John Conroe’s Demon Accords, in which demons can manipulate matter and attack mortal creatures. However, in those paraphysical combats, the demons are vulnerable to destruction by heaven’s hunters...and the hunters are equally vulnerable. We’re informed at one point that among the possible consequences is a fate “worse than death,” though Miss Hall doesn’t elaborate on it.

     I hope Miss Hall has more than just this one series in her. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

WalkingHorse said...

Interesting. I confess to having long thought of our temporal existence as a sort of boot camp for far more consequential travails. Color me strange if you like. Jesus Christ as the pentulmitate requitet does not strike me as contrary to the Truths He revealed to us.