Maxine Kiss is the latest in a long line of demon hunters. It’s a responsibility with Earth-shaking consequences, both blessing and curse, bestowed upon her by her mother who received it from her mother who, in turn, had it passsed down to her from her mother before her, and so on dating back some thousand years. Her weapons against the forces of evil are demons themselves – dormant during the day when they assume the form of tattoos that adorn her body, they awaken at night to do her bidding. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship. She depends on them to keep her alive while they keep her alive knowing that her death would mean the end for them as well. However, both are also well aware of the fact that, one day, Maxine will pass her demon-hunting legacy down to her daughter – and, when that day comes, her former demonic allies will abandon her, leaving her at the mercy of her merciless enemies.
Against common demon hunter sense, Maxine has elected to settle down and enter into a relationship. Things seem to be going swimmingly – or as swimmingly as possible given her profession – until the police show up at the homeless shelter run by her boyfriend, Grant, asking about her. It turns out a private detective was found murdered on the bad side of town and search of his person turned up a newspaper clipping with her name written on it.
Maxine’s investigation into the matter leads her to Bloody Mama, the Zombie Queen, who charges Maxine with a formidable task. Millennia ago, Earth was the battleground of a great war that culminated in the defeat of an army of demons and their imprisonment in a dimensional fortress. But, over time, the walls of that once formidable fortress have weakened and soon, the veil separating the two realities will be breached, allowing the long-contained demons free reign. And only Maxine Kiss can stop them.
It’s great premise with an even greater character in Maxine, a powerful warrior with a surprising amount of depth, much of it conveyed through her relationship with Grant. Although charged with the task of ridding the world of evil forces, Maxine is conflicted. The violent means she has long used to deal with the darklings runs counter to the measures presently used by the man she loves. Instead of destroying demons, he rehabilitates them through the power of music, demonstrating an alternate, if not preferable method of dealing with them. But old habits die hard, especially ones reinforced through generations of demon hunting, and Maxine finds herself torn. Exacerbating matters for her is Byron, an orphan, who she takes under her wing after saving him from a zombie attack. He is both a problem for her and a potential target for her enemies, and her developing relationship with Byron and her role as his protector also shines some wonderful light on her dark, often pained, persona. It’s the perfect compliment to the novel’s setting, Seattle, whose grey skies and somber environs offer a grim backdrop to the action. But like the book and Maxine herself, the city’s shadows also offer the possibility of brightness and hope.
These hints of illumination are sprinkled throughout the book, occasionally hinted at in surprising developments, often displayed in the flashes of humor delivered by the likes of the most unlikeliest of characters: Tracker, a fearsome yet contradictorily comic force to be reckoned with, and Maxine’s own demons, “the boys”, led by the mischievous Zee. They go a long way toward not only rounding out Maxine’s character, but keeping the reader engaged throughout.
Overall a very enjoyable read although I did find the beginning of the novel a tad overwhelming. The reader is dropped headlong into the story and there were moments when I wasn’t sure what was going on (and I briefly considered hunting down the prequel and reading it first), but I was able to play catch and, eventually, I came to appreciate the author’s unwillingness to spoonfeed the details and, instead, push us to piece together the narrative just as Maxine rises to the challenge and pieces together the multiple mysteries that drive her.
The Iron Hunt is fast-paced and fraught with enough twists and turns to earn itself a place as urban fantasy’s answer to The Big Sleep. No one and no thing is who or what they seem and there are secrets around every corner. Liu’s prose style flows effortlessly between sparse and succinct to lyrical and almost poetic in its imagery. A nice change of pace for me and a pleasant surprise.
So, those were my initial thoughts. What did everyone else think? Start posting your questions for author Marjorie M. Liu!
kat writes: “I just wanted to say that it is really cool how you answer everyone’s questions on here. People attack you but you don’t filter it you just post it like it is.”
Answer: Thanks, kat. Truth is there are occasions when I do moderate comments – for intance, if it’s spam, offensive, or what I would term “generally douchey” such as, for example, the comments you’ve been trying to post under an alternate screen name. Thanks for stopping by. Now, off you go, back to your angry little corner of the internet.
Diageo writes: “I’m having a weird problem. My comments keep disappearing? Seems like some kind of WordPress glitch?”
Answer: Sorry, kat/Diageo. I’ll look into the issue and get back to you within the next 3-5 days. Please stand by.
Tim writes: “Would it be completely off base to say that the Stargate franchise is dead on SyFy after SGU ends its run?”
Answer: Well, never say never but let me put it this way – Next year, I doubt I’ll be paying another $21.30 postage due on their annual Christmas gift.
Deni writes: ” Ok, if two Goa’uld mated, supposedly the child born to them would have all the genetic knowledge of all the Goa’uld, right? In “Forever in a Day”, there was a mention that the child would also know all the secrets of the Goa’uld, as well. I guess what hubby wanted to know was if it only the Harsesis would have all that information or if a single Goa’uld would know the same things.”
Answer: No, the child would be far more formidable because the knowledge possessed would be genetic in source. The same couldn’t be said for individual goa’ulds.
hal ehrlich writes: “In the past (SG1 and Atlantis) when someone would walk through the gate we would see a short little scene where you saw a wormhole and then they appeared to come out of the new gate.
Now when someone walks through the gate you hear a little noise for a split second then they appear to come through the other gate.
Did you decide not to do the wormhole scene since these gates dont travel too far compared to the gates in the Mikly Way and Pegasus galaxies ?”
Answer: No, I think it was simply a stylistic choice intended to diffentiate the look and feel of the shows.
Bryan writes: “Hi Joe, given the finite size of the Destiny.. but potentially unlimited nature of fiction, what pseudo-percentage of the ship remains unexplored?”
Answer: Probably around eighty percent. In the back half of season 2, the crew begins to check out these unexplored sections of the ship. And they make an incredible discovery (see The Hunt).
Bryan also writes: “What OS do you use personally? traditionalist Windows on PC, OSX on Mac?”
Answer: I’m a recent Mac convert.
dasNdanger writes: “See, if I knew you were still doing mailbag questions, I would have asked you more stuff!!! Like…can you sing? Or…do you listen to Sinatra? Or…what’s the worst thing you ever did to your sister? Or…does Todd have any other tattoos that we can’t see? If so, how do YOU know??!”
Answer: Can’t sing, don’t listen to Sinatra, I once let her take the blame for my drawing stick figures on the wall, he has a heart-shaped tattoo on his right butt cheek, Carl told me.
Alex writes: “I bought a copy of the commemorative SG-1: Celebration of 10 years book from Gateworld. I assume you have it as well and was wondering if yours has like 15 duplicate pages in it right smack in the middle?”
Answer: No, but mine does have a well-chewed corner compliments of one of my dogs.
Quade writes: “Do you think syfy might be sitting on the remaining episodes of SGU to drum up publicity and viewership? And if so, do you think it could help in getting a renewal or pickup elsewhere?”
Answer: No and unlikely.
Michael writes: “Will we see the Ancients in some form, either human or ascended in the back half of season 2?”
Johnny writes: “In the realm of anime, have you ever given GunxSword a watch?”
Answer: Couldn’t get into it.
Patricia Lee writes: “If you launch your comic book series this year, will you and Paul be attending COMIC-CON in San Diego this year?”
Shawna Buchanan writes: “Can you explain why Simeon was allowed to just wander around the ship menacing people in a clearly villainous way with only one guy guarding him when everyone else who they had even the least cause to suspect of potentially doing something bad was kept under lock and key?”
Answer: All of the Lucian Alliance members were kept under lock and key until they (seemingly) started cooperating with Homeworld Command at which point they were permitted limited freedom under escort.
Josh writes: “Would earth be in any great danger from a Lucian alliance attack? I mean, they got some pretty nice tech now from Atlantis and from the Asgard, so it almost seems that if the Lucian alliance would decide to attack earth, it wouldn’t really be as big of a threat as everyone is acting like in SGU. Anyway, whats your take on this?”
Answer: Alliances. Season 2.
Rich writes: “Sort of touching on a previous post by someone else – is the question of getting a SG-1 or SGA movie into production solely a question of money?”
Answer: Nope. There are a bunch of other issues as well.
Mihai Marius writes: “Is it possible that Amanda Perry is not dead?”
Answer: Hope. Season 2.
Sparrow_hawk writes: “So, Joe: did you know that Sets 2 and 3 of Gintama are available?”
Answer: It’s on my list of dvd’s to pick up. Would you happen to know whether or not it’s Funimation. After suffering through two Funimation shows (Baccano and Claymore) that MAKE YOU sit through the previews for upcoming releases (you can’t fast-forward through them; you have to watch them EVERY TIME you want to watch a new episode) I am done with them.
Fulring writes: “Somebody posted a question about solar flares intercepting wormhole while recharging and we know that episode 2.12 ‘Twin Destinies’ deals with Rush coming back from the future, is this going to happen on the mentioned way?”
Answer: Maybe. Maybe not.
Furling also writes: “What happened with Tria (Aurora-class battleship from ‘The Return’)? Is it left between galaxies?”
Answer: Yes, still there.
noelm writes: “I’ve lost track of all the new projects you have a’cooking. Can you run through them again for us?”
Answer: One comic book series in the works, two t.v. pilots (horror-comedy and dramedy) ready to go, two more pilots (dark comedy, fantasy) being written. Also beating out a possible SF novel.
g.o.d. writes: “if SGU gets another season, movies, miniseries or whatever the plan is, will we find out who the Planet builders are and why did they build Eden? And the nature of the obelisk?”
Answer: That was the plan if we had gotten that third season pick up.
asdasdg writes: “Destiny has a subspace link with all the seed ships so is it possible that one or two could have retraced steps to come rescue Destiny while it was being attacked by the Blueberry Aliens only to reach Destiny when it is fighting the Drone Command Ship?”
Answer: No because the seed ships are so far out in advance of Destiny that they would never get there in time to offer assistance.
asdasdg also writes: “Why didn’t the Seed Ship have a lockout on the navigational controls like Destiny did with the master code?”
Answer: The seed ships don’t contain the valuable data Destiny possesses. Liken them to bees. Destiny is the queen. The seed ships are the worker bees.
Ian Z. also writes: “You said that you guys would handle it better, and that’s obvious because I’m an outsider. My question was what you thought of it? Have you guys been doing this stuff? Or are you also an outsider?”
Answer: Trust me when I say that every possibility is being looked into.
TheSGC writes: “You think Brett Favre is coming back?”
Answer: Channeling Carl Binder – He announced his retirement so, yeah, he’ll probably come back.
max writes: “Was the plan all along from the conception of the series to kill off the potential girlfriend of Eli ,and also Simon the villan?Or was that done later on due to budget concerns?”
Answer: Nope, that was always the plan.
max also writes: ”
One other question: has most of the non-Canadian cast members moved from vancouver back to their country since the announcement of the cancellation?”
Major Davis writes: “I know the priority is on SGU, which makes sense, but you’ve said several times that Brad’s plan will revive all three limbs of the franchise. However, when asked about SG-1 and SGA, you say you don’t know whether Revolution and Extinction will get made (should SGU get revived)….. Which leads me to wonder, how does BW’s plan include SGA and SG-1?”
Answer: You’ll have to wait and see.
maggiemayday writes: “How are you enjoying The Stand?”
Answer: Read both The Stand and The Dome and I have to sayI prefer King’s shorter novels (ie. Misery).
Randomness writes: “Have you seen Dokuro Chan Joe?”
Answer: No, but I’m intrigued.
Gimpy writes: “Any posibility that a major motion picture would be made that is stargate based? As was the case with star trek after it was originally canceled.”
Answer: There’s certainly a possibility, but I’d imagine something like that wouldn’t happen for a while.
Jeffrey writes: “And you do realize that SG-1 wasn’t averaging a 2.0 in its last year, right? It was somewhere around a 1.4.”
Answer: I wasn’t arguing that Atlantis was responsible for any decline, simply pointing out that you can skew the numbers to bolster any argument of your choosing. If not SG-1’s last year, then feel free to pick the previous year, or the year before that.