Wild Hunt, by Lori Devoti
Third in Ms Devoti’s Unbound series by Nocturne, it was my introduction to her writing.
Here’s the blurb—which has nothing to do with the actual plot. Not that anyone is surprised anymore, right?
Natural Enemies—Hellhound and Valkyrie—their alliance made them more powerful than anyone could anticipate.
Alongside his hellhound brethren, Venge Leidolf was summoned to start the Wild Hunt anew. But in this dreaded pursuit of souls, Venge sought to free himself from his infernal bondage—by claiming the heart of a fierce Valkyrie…
Geysa never questioned the alluring gifts that set her apart from the other Valkyries, or her hatred of hellhounds—until Venge fell under her spell. Drawing the alpha hellhound so close made Geysa doubt her every instinct. To stop the Hunt, the two blood-born enemies would need to cast aside old vows and allegiances. Only then could no one question the strength of their union…
Unbound: Unleashed by passion… saved by love.
Well, okay, if you want to get technical about it, I lied: the blurb has some facts from the book. Her name is Geysa and she is part Valkyrie, and his name is Venge Leidolf and he is a hellhound. Everything else is… well, not in the book I read.
Basically, there’s this magical horn used by the ErlKing to summon the hellhounds to join the Wild Hunt, whose goal is to take and destroy the souls of its prey. For a while prior to the beginning of the book, the Valkyries have held the horn, thus thwarting the ErlKing. But now, this magical artifact is missing, and the wild hunt—and its attendant destruction of souls—could begin anew.
The Valkyries, who are charged with taking the souls of worthy warriors to Valhalla, have obvious reasons to want to find the horn. Venge has different reasons—namely personal revenge—and later we find out that there are a couple other entities after the horn, also for their own reasons.
I loved the first third of this book. I found the use of Norse mythology and the world building very interesting and well done, and really liked how Venge’s character was revealed more by his actions and reactions to his environment than by introspective angsting—although there is a bit of the latter, which serves to fill the reader in on some of the backstory.
I also enjoyed several of the secondary characters, particularly Sigurd and Jora—they were well fleshed out without overpowering the main story line. In fact, if Ms Devoti writes their stories, I will definitely get them, because I want to know exactly how the issues with the hellhounds and the horn are solved.
However, there was a huge hitch for me pretty much from the first few pages: Geysa… well, I never warmed towards her, and it just got worse as the novel progressed. I mean, here’s a character that is supposed to be several centuries old, and to have been raised by the Valkyries, who are powerful warriors in their own right. Yet, she’s mostly ineffectual in any fight situation and her reactions are more akin to those of an adolescent, angsty girl, than of a grown woman, let alone a mythical being.
My biggest issue with the book is the pacing, specifically during the action sequences. There are a couple of smaller fights where the writing seems a bit awkward, like one of those rehearsed fights where one of the antagonists moves too fast and then has to wait until the other one gets in position for the next blow.
This is exponentially more noticeable during the first two big confrontations over the horn. Here we have literally dozens of beings—hellhounds, Valkyries, the main characters, a witch, the ErlKing—all supposedly involved in the action, all after the horn in their own way; yet it is as if most of these are there only as stage dressing.
Ms Devoti focuses on two, perhaps three of these characters to the exclusion of everyone else, and the reader is simply expected, by my guess, to assume that the rest of them are… what? flying in a holding pattern? paralyzed by some sort of shock? I don’t know. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by very tight, heart-pounding action sequences by other writers, but pretty much all of the scenes where I was supposed to feel a rush of adrenaline left me cold.
I will get the first two novels in the series, Unbound and Guardian’s Keep, as soon as I can, because the world building in this one intrigued me enough that I really want to know more about this universe and the beings that inhabit it.
This one is a 6.5 out of 10 for me.