Silver smoke winds around my torso, peeling away from my ribs and back, stealing the dark mist covering my hands and lower extremities . . . tattoos dissolving into demon flesh, coalescing into small dark bodies. My boys. The only friends I have in this world. Demons.
I am a demon hunter. I am a demon. I am Hunter Kiss.
By day, her tattoos are her armor. By night, they unwind from her body to take on forms of their own. Demons of the flesh, turned into flesh. This is the only family demon hunter Maxine Kiss has ever known. The only way to live-and the very way she’ll die. For one day, her demons will abandon her for her daughter to assure their own survival-leaving Maxine helpless against her enemies.
But such is the way of Earth’s last protector-the only one standing between humanity and the demons breaking out from behind the prison veils. It is a life lacking in love, reveling in death, until one moment-and one man-changes everything . . .
I read a Maxine Kiss short story quite a while back in an anthology and remember really enjoying it, so I wasn’t surprised at how engrossing The Iron Hunt is. Maxine is a Hunter, from a long line of Hunters, tasked with keeping demons in check. She’s settled into tenuous comfort with her boyfriend Grant, former priest and so much more, and enjoys helping out at the soup kitchen and shelter that he runs. He veneer of normality that Maxine has cloaked herself in is shattered when she is accused of the murder of a private investigator. Her name is on a piece of paper found in the dead man’s pocket, and Maxine has no idea who else could know of her identity. Her investigation will lead her to a man who may have much to do with her past and creatures that hint at the possibility of a coming apocalypse.
The Iron Hunt opens with this line “When I was eight, my mother lost me to zombies in a one-card draw.” Sucks you right in, yes? It certainly caught my attention, and I ended up staying glued to the pages. There’s trouble brewing beyond the veil, and things not of this world are pushing through to this reality. What begins with the murder of a private investigator turns into a search into Maxine’s soul, and her past. Maxine is a tough girl, make no mistake, and her tattoos are, um, unusual. During the day, they are her armor. When I say armor, Maxine can get hit by a car and she’ll be right as rain. That’s some serious armor. At night, the tattoos come off and coalesce into five seriously rough and tumble little demons. Zee seems like the alpha guy of the group, and the only one that Maxine actually speaks with. They’re a charming lot, and I found myself falling in love with them as the book goes on. I mean, these little guys can devour a baddie in seconds, like to cuddle teddy bears (well, pieces of teddy bears), eat tools and other various non-edibles (somehow the author makes this charming, seriously), and will do anything to keep Maxine safe. Ms. Liu’s writing is sharp and immediate, and the action hardly lets up. I also like her concept of zombies. We’re not talking the shambling undead here. “Zombie” is used to describe humans inhabited by demons. Maxine is convinced the lot of them are up to no good, but Grant is convinced they can change, and he just might have the ability to make that happen. In fact, there’s way more to Grant than meets the eye. This is just another one of the stunning discoveries Maxine will make during the story. She knew Grant had some magic, but just how much remains to be seen. Her devotion to him is unshakeable, however, and her strength, tempered with an aching vulnerability are part of what make Maxine a heroine to root for. The author has a wonderful way with words, and has created a world rich in mythology, ghosts, demons, and plenty of darkness (although there is light at the end.) Her imagery is immediate and the twists and turns don’t stop! I highly recommend this series to any urban fantasy fan, and can’t believe I had it sitting on my shelf for so long!