Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hunter's Oath by Michelle West

This is the first book that I picked up specifically for this challenge. The goal of the challenge is to read at least two books by authors who share my name, or with my name in the title. They can share first or last name, so I went with last name, at least for the first two. If I find that I'm reading any books throughout the year that also share my first name, I'll go ahead and go above my goal.
Hunter's Oath is the first book in a two-book series by Michelle West. I actually picked this book up and read it several years ago, and then I never managed to find the sequel. At some point, I sort of forgot about the book, but I would see it occasionally at the library and want to pick it up again. I am so glad I finally did. I honestly do not remember liking it this much the first time I read it, but I loved it this time around.
The Hunter Lords of Breodanir have sworn a pact with their god. The Hunter God gives his people plentiful food in both the hunt and their farms, but once a year all of the Hunter Lords and their huntbrothers must participate in the Sacred Hunt, where they become the hunted, and one of them will suffer the Hunter's Death. Not too long ago, the King refused to call the Sacred Hunt, and his people were sorely punished for it. When the Prince finally killed the King and became King himself, that year the Sacred Hunt claimed many more than its usual one life. The Hunter God showed his anger, but he also gave back to his people, bringing them out of the famine the old king had left them in. The Hunter Lords know their burden, but they are also given special gifts by the god - they have the ability to communicate with their hunting dogs, to enter the hunter's trance and become more than simply human. Each Hunter Lord must have a huntbrother, someone chosen from the common people at the age of eight - the huntbrothers keep the Lords grounded, and they share a bond that is stronger than any other. The Queen and the Hunter Ladies are the ones that truly run the kingdom, while the King (Master of the Hunt) and his Hunter Lords provide for them.
Stephen was a thief in the King's City until he was chosen by Lord Elseth to become huntbrother to Gilliam, Lord Elseth's son. But Stephen has been marked by the gods for much more. The story continues to get complicated as we learn of the world outside of Breodanir, and of the Darkness that rises. Somehow the Hunter God, and Stephen and Gilliam, are involved in the coming battle, where all of their oaths will be put to the test.
I loved this book, and I am tremendously excited to read the next one, Hunter's Death. The world that West has created is different from many other fantasy worlds, and she does an excellent job of sharing that world with her readers. The characters are also very well written. Even though you want to hit them for making stupid mistakes sometimes, you still love them all the way. This book is highly recommended for anyone who loves fantasy and is looking for an interesting read.
Another fun challenge that I read this book for is the What's In A Name Challenge. This one includes six categories to read from, all relating to words in the title. I've already read books for the building and body parts categories. This one is for the "profession" category. I feel like I'm bending each one just a tiny bit, but I think it's okay. It certainly makes the challenge more interesting.

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