Hunter #3. Author: Mercedes Lackey.
Being a member of the Elite Hunter Command imperils Joy in more ways than one. In their latest clash with Othersiders, the army of monsters nearly wiped them out. Apex City is safe . . . for now. But within the city barriers, Joy must wage a different kind of war.
The corrupt and powerful PsiCorps is determined to usurp the Hunters as chief defenders of Apex City and Joy is now squarely in their crosshairs. Unused to playing political games, she has very few people she can truly trust—not even Josh, her first friend in Apex City, who broke up with her when it became too dangerous for a Psimon to be dating a Hunter.
Then Josh comes to Joy for help. He fears that Abigail Drift, the head of PsiCorps, will soon use him in her twisted experiments designed to empower PsiCorps and render Hunters superfluous—a scheme that’s already killed off dozens of Psimons. Joy manages to smuggle Josh to safety, but he cannot evade Drift forever . . .
As Joy faces ever more powerful Othersiders, she is helped by the most surprising ally imaginable—the same Folk Mage she once met in battle on the train to Apex City. But can Joy trust the most cunning and treacherous of all Othersiders?
Joy has been working in Apex City for three books – and over a year (I think)- and she has earned her skill. Earned it through minor slogging fight after fight, through near-deadly boss fights, through simply showing up to her job day after day. I love it! Buuut… (sorry Joy), she’s still getting over-powered. Not in the sense of being overrun by enemies, but plot-wise having too much power. She has a pack of eleven hounds, compared to everyone else’s three or four. Her hounds keep manifesting abilities no one else’s do, like taking on human form. All the fae are specifically interested in her, with no clear reason, which reeks of Special One Syndrome.
However, like I said, these outer factors are somewhat countered by how hard Joy has worked to earn her own fighting skill. Still overpowered, but it’s manageable.
Next point. You know why Apex City is so lucky to have Joy as their heroine instead of (*insert pretty much any other YA heroine*)? This girl has her head on straight. She doesn’t keep stupid secrets, she’s not blindly trusting but she wants to believe in people, and she doesn’t hold a grudge. When Josh comes to her terrified, begging for help to save his life, she helps him. She figures out a way to be sure of his honesty, and they basically get back together again; but remember, Apex City is under heavy attack, and Joy is constantly either On Shift or worn out. She doesn’t have time for romance, and she (and the book) acknowledges that! At one point she realizes how little she knows Josh, saying “Should have spent a lot less time kissing, and a lot more time talking”. Then she also comments on how much you can tell about someone from the books they read, and proceeds to hang out with Josh for the rest of her free time (Sort of. It’s complicated) and helps him pick out a bunch of books to download.
I think the main thing in Apex that feels a little off is the pacing and tension. It’s surprisingly realistic to see Joy and the other hunters simply working, getting called out of bed at unexpected hours, sometimes mopping up an easy little group and sometimes exhausting themselves on big nasty beasts. But the thing is, we already saw a lot of monster-fighting in the first two books. I think it does make this book feel a little bit blander, because there’s not really new stuff happening for most of the action.
Except the fae. Too many spoilers to say much more, but I’ve been looking forward to finding out a bit more about fae since the first book. We still don’t know a lot, but there was definitely an interesting bit.
Back to the pacing and tension. I never really felt like Joy was in danger of losing, both because of her own strength + pack of hounds, and because both times things get seriously tight she pulls something new out of her sleeve, which leaves the unfortunate impression that she could just keep doing that. Especially for the final battle, the winning factor… well, it sort of made sense, but it wasn’t foreshadowed. Barely hinted at, if anything.
And now I’m hearing that this may be the last book? That didn’t even cross my mind when I finished it. It doesn’t feel wrapped up. Yes, things are under control again, but the Hunters have gotten things mostly under control a lot of times, and each time it all broke loose and came roaring back with a vengeance. So maybe that goes back to the pacing issues. Still. Overall rating is 3.7 stars for a level-headed quick-thinking heroine and her delightful hounds in a somewhat bland plot.
Sexual Content: One instance of joking innuendo. Some brief kissing, not really described.
Language: 18 d***, 12 scatological terms, 4 hell, 3 derogatory terms, 1 exclamation of ‘God’
Violence: There’s a lot of minor fighting, all of it similar enough that describing each battle does little good. A lot of monsters are killed with bullets, hounds, magic, magic lasers; humans are injured, and in at least one instance killed. There’s not a lot of gore or blood described, and the beasts are basically animalistic and unintelligent unless controlled by fae. There’s one major duel between two characters, magic mostly, and one of the characters is handed over to Hounds for ‘justice’ (It’s not clear what they’ll hand out, but it probably involves death.)