The second in the duology. The first one was Hunter’s Oath.
This book is more epic in scope than the previous one. The cast is also much larger.
The protagonists from the previous book, Hunter Lord Gilliam of Elseth and his huntbrother Stephen, are on their way to Averalaan which is the capital city of an mighty and old empire, ruled by the God-born Twin Kings. Gillam and Stephen are looking for a cure for the wild girl Espere who is mute and dog-like in her behavior. The seer Evayne is their occasional companion and another mage has joined in. They have to cross the dangerous mountains and their enemies, the demons, are near. In order to escape their clutches, Evayne has to draw on dangerous magics.
However, the book starts with a protagonist in the city of Averalaan. Jewel Markess, Jay, is the young leader of a small group of thieving street urchins. Her group has been using the maze under the city but now it seems that someone else in the maze as well, someone who doesn’t like them. However, Jewel doesn’t have much time to dwell on that; she has a talent for sensing when danger is near and that sense is almost screaming. She decides to turn to her mentor, Old Rath, but to her horror, she discovers that someone has killed Old Rath and taken on his appearance. However, Old Rath has left her instructions. Unfortunately, they send her to the head of the most powerful noble house of the city and the ragtag ruffians are going have a hard time getting her to believe them.
The Terafin is the leader of most powerful noble house of Averalaan. However, House Terafin has ascended to that lofty position only lately and has powerful enemies among the other houses. When the street urchin brings a warning to the Terafin about a threat to the whole city, she knows that she can only count on herself and her Chosen.
Hunter’s Death has many point-of-view characters and most of them are only seen briefly. Most of the story is seen from the POV of Jewel, the Terafin, and Stephen. Kallandras the assassin/bard is also seen briefly. The new characters include one of the most powerful mages in the Empire, an old healer who has to continue his work, a nobleman who serves both the Terafin and a secret society, and a Chosen one in the house of Terafin. All of them end up being surprisingly well developed considering the small page count given to each character. However, Jewel’s small group of followers are mostly seen in the beginning and not much after that.
While the first book was Stephen’s and Gilliam’s coming-of-age story, this one is Jewel’s coming-of-age story. I would have loved to see more of Evayne and Kallandras. The mage Melaronne was also interesting and I think not all of his secrets were revealed.
I was somewhat intrigued by the Essalieyan empire. It’s led by two kings: one of them is the son of the god of Justice and the other the son of god of Wisdom. They seem to rule jointly. Also, their Queens seem to play a large part at least in politics. The three biggest religions (Justice, Wisdom, and the Mother) are also led by God-born leaders. Yet, it’s apparently both Wise and Just that part of the city’s population is born, live, and die in utter poverty simply because of accident of birth. Social injustice brings conflict, of course, but I still feel it’s most Unjust.
On the other hand, The Ten, which are the ten most powerful noble houses of the city, are apparently not a house where anyone is born to. The leader of the house, who is called by the name of the house and not by his or her given name, chooses who can join the house. The Chosen seem to be mostly utterly loyal soldiers but they probably have to also have political connections, wealth, magical power, or something else that the leader of the house wants. Of course, only the wealthy are likely be able to have those.
The plot felt quite slow at time. Mostly, I blame the multiple POVs. The start of the book was quick especially because of the introduction of the new characters and setting. The ending was also quicker although the multiple POV again slowed it somewhat. Several months passed during the middle part.
I liked West’s writing style enough that I looked up her other books. The Sun Sword looks like it’s too depressing and gloomy for my tastes but I might try the Cast-series at some point.
Her website has some free first chapters and short stories: http://msagarawest.wordpress.com/downloads/