Hunter, by Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey is the author of dozens of books, most of them in the fantasy genre and in what Amazon lists as “fantasy romance”. This book is her opening shot into a Hunter Series featuring mountain girl Joyeaux Charmand. (What pile of Scrabble tiles do they use to find these names?)
The action takes place on the North American continent in a future or alternate world. There has been a disturbance in the force that occurred centuries before. Now creatures, monsters and other beings, have a path to our world. This has destroyed much of the infrastructure as some of the worst creatures have been known to devour whole towns. Now “cits” (citizens) live in cities surrounded by barriers while in the country farm villages must still defend themselves. And up in the Rockies there is a monastery where Joy was raised and trained to be a hunter.
Hunters are teen defenders who protect the cits from magical creatures using a combination of weapons and magical powers. Joy, raised in a mountain monastery, now travels to the large city of Apex. She’s been chosen to join the hunters. The train that she is on is attacked by a Drakken and Joy successfully defeats it. The entire battle is filmed. She now comes into an urbanized world as a famous figure, her battle having been shown to the city’s population. She also learns that hunters are almost constantly followed by flying cameras recording their every move and many hunters have their own fan following. This is a government plan to keep the cits placated and feeling safe and secure. Many of the videos are heavily edited so that the cits can’t learn that the magical creatures are slowly getting closer to Apex.
If parts of this seem familiar … brave girl, dystopian future, warrior teens as television idols … well, let’s just say it’s good that they’re fighting magical creatures and not being dropped in the woods for a televised death match.
The most popular hunter is a handsome young man who is also egotistical and jealous of others getting more attention. This sets Joy up for an antagonist through the entire book as she has to live in dorms with other hunters and try to learn the ropes. She makes friends with some, has rivalries with others, and has lots of battles with a wide variety of creatures.
Other than the Hunger Games template the adventure scenes and magical creatures are exciting and well written. Joy is a heroic lead character with skill, intelligence, and still manages a caring nature. The publisher says the book is written for teens Grade 7 and older and that seems about right.