Friday, March 4, 2022

The Beast Hunter

Lindsay Schopfer
Completed 3/3/2022, Reviewed 3/4/2022
4 stars

I met Lindsay at the Oregon Science Fiction Convention last year.  He’s a very nice guy and we talked quite a lot about different things.  I’ve bought a few books by authors exhibiting at Orycon before, though not many because I always have personal reading challenges that I’m in the midst of, usually all the winners of some SF/Fantasy/Horror award.  But when I have some extra cash at Orycon, I like supporting the Pacific Northwest authors who come to promote their books.  I was pleasantly surprised by this book, the first of a trilogy about Keltin Moore, a beast hunter.  Sort of a Dresden Files meets Lovecraft, but a lot more serious.

Keltin comes from a small town where he makes his living hunting the strange monsters that roam the countryside.  When a call for beast hunters in the far away country of Krendaria comes, Keltin answers out of duty to his craft and to make some extra money to send to mother and sister.  Upon arriving, he meets members of other humanoid species who have also answered the call.  He also finds that Krendaria is on the verge of revolution because of food shortages due to the destruction by the monsters.  The beast hunters are funded by a Baron and led by a military man.  It soon becomes evident that a military approach won’t work for hunting and killing the monsters.  Keltin steps up, offering a different approach, which is actually accepted by the leaders and proves to be more successful.  However, there are so many monsters that only the southern half of the crops might be saved.  Keltin goes with a small group to the north where the concentration of monsters seems higher to stave off their movement south, hopefully allowing the southern farmers to harvest their crops.  

I really liked Keltin.  He’s a self-made person who has become one of the best monster hunters around.  It is his idea to let hunters use their own tactics rather than follow a military-style organization.  He’s not a leader but finds himself leading a group of hunters.  He doesn’t have the forward thinking of a leader and is wracked by guilt over decisions he’s made that led to harm of his unit.  He may be one of the best hunters in the land, but he’s also very human.

I also like the representatives from the other species that were on the team, particularly the Loopi, as well a nomadic tribe, both of which have to deal with prejudice and mistrust, even among their hunter peers.  The nomadic peoples have a way of calling upon their ancestors for insight and power.  And the Loopi have a psychic-like power that might be the only weapon against an invisible monster that distorts the reality around it and causes intense mental anguish.  

The character development is really good, with interesting backgrounds and experiences.  Keltin himself is great but flawed.  He’s the focus of the third person narration, so we get to know most about him.  The plot is really terrific, though I found it pretty straight-forward.  By that I mean there aren’t multiple threads weaving in and out of each other.  It’s about Keltin’s journey to Krendaria and the killing of monsters.  The prose is quite good, having an immediacy and good pace while still being descriptive and interesting.  Lastly, the world-building is phenomenal, a sort of steampunk wild west sensibility, but you’re not distracted by dirigibles and clockwork mechanisms. 

The one thing I thought was missing was a sense of humor.  This book is very dark and fast paced.  I would have liked to have seen some sort of mild comedy to break up the intensity every now and then.  In that sense, it is more Lovecratian than Dresden.  But I don’t want a Dresden Files clone.  I wouldn’t want this to be too closely compared to that series.  I think the book stands on its own, perhaps more comparable to chasing monsters in role playing games.

I give this book four stars out of five.  It’s a darn good action tale with deep characters and a wild setting.  I’m glad I picked up this trilogy and look forward to reading the next installment. 

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