Book Review – Hunting the Five by Maria Violante
I should first point out that this is not the type of story I normally read. It starts with action and it barely takes a breath before there is more. It is about a gun-toting, formerly human demon who serves as a mercenary and assassin at the pleasure of a group that are called, logically enough, angels. This would normally put it on my “not my kind of thing” list because I tend to not like tales in which the protagonists use violence as their primary means of resolving conflicts. I don’t find anything admirable about such characters or anything interesting in that kind of conflict. It is normally simplistic and, quite frankly, uninteresting.
Hunting for the Five may be a rare exception because of how well written it is. The prose is succinct and fresh, almost poetic in places. The descriptions are vivid but not graphic. I saw only two or three typos in this self published novella, which are fewer than I would normally expect to see in a professionally edited and traditionally published book.
From the beginning I got the impression that the lead character, De la Roca, is a reluctant token in someone else’s game. I read on wondering who the players were and what the object of that game was. That question is not answered in this short novella. It seems to mainly serve to introduce us to the protagonist.
I can’t say I admire or identify with De la Roca. She is interesting though and I can sympathize with her. She has lost her memory and she finds herself in the middle of a conflict she does not fully understand, manipulated and blackmailed by one side of some grand conflict to seek out and kill agents from the other side. Her motivation is selfish though. She is hunting down and killing demons not to save the world or free mankind; she is doing it so that she can be released from Hell.
Her direct contact with whomever or whatever uses her in its game is simply called the Angel. It seems to be almost like her parole officer. It is an enigmatic but obviously magically powerful creature that shows up after each kill she makes to emotionlessly inform her of her next target. It never shows any personality and one wonders what this thing really is that has such power over her and is it really all that much different than the demons she is contracted to kill?
Of course a novella is far too short a work to do the kind of world building necessary to fully develop the obviously complex mythos behind this story. It is rich with magic and mythical creatures. Most are fairly interesting but we don’t get the chance to understand any of them well. One of the most interesting is De la Roca’s trusted companion throughout the tale, her horse, which is also presumably some kind of demon and can change between various equine forms at will.
I can see this story developing further. There are many questions implied in our introduction to this fantasy world. Will De la Roca free herself? Will she regain her memory? What is this cosmic conflict and who are the opposing forces? Will De la Roca ultimately rebel against those who have been using her or will she continue to serve them willingly? There is a lot of potential here.
If you like an action packed fantasy adventure with a strong female antihero, then I think you will really like this first episode of the De la Roca Chronicles. It is a real bargain as well for only 99¢ from Smashwords or Amazon.