An age of myth. A bitter feud. A storm of legend.
It is the closing days of the Enkindled King’s wars for Earthblood, when a cycle of violence and hatred sparks a bitter feud in his shadow.
Náith, the Warrior. Luw, the Hunter. Cast aside and burned by their lover’s betrayal, the two find themselves trapped in a bloody struggle for the affections of Síle, the Maid of Mael Tulla.
Cherished as a healer and bringer of verdant life to barren lands, Síle stands as a mystery unto all – even those who would claim her heart. For one so gentle and kind, secrets and bloodshed swarm about her like flies upon a corpse.
Consumed by hatred and heartache, both Náith and Luw will take the darkest of trials and challenge death itself, unaware of the true game being played.
A storm beyond imagining waits for the Warrior and the Hunter. One that will decide the fate of Luah Fáil.
Horns of the Hunter is a standalone novella set in Luah Fáil, a setting that will be familiar to those who have read some of Dorrian’s earlier works. I was completely sold upon seeing the wonderful cover by Felix Ortiz and Shawn T. King. Anyone who says they don’t judge a book by its cover is a liar.
Accept me, little one. Its whisper brushed against his skin like the tattered ends of a grave shroud. I am inexorable.
This is my first foray into this world, this being my introduction to Dorrian’s work, and I found myself swept away almost immediately by the world and the characters that inhabit it. Luah Fáil feels immediately familiar in a way that I can’t describe. Even though this is an island inhabited by beings straight out of Celtic mythology, it feels grounded in a reality that I can believe exists. That is probably one of the most impressive things about this story, that a hulking behemoth made up of slabs of muscle and a raging monster made of fire both feel like they are just a step away from being real. It’s also a testament to Dorrian’s skill with the pen that I can be immediately swept away from the get-go, without so much as a paragraph to introduce us to the story.
The story is contained to Luah Fáil, an island that is inhabited by the nuankin. I’m still not exactly sure what the nuankin are, which is the largest failing of the worldbuilding. While Dorrian does a fantastic job of creating feeling, an ambiance, if you will, he rarely takes the time to explain what anything means. My enjoyment of the story was not impacted by this, but it is frustrating not being able to actually explain what most of the stuff is. The nuankin, from what I can tell, are a race of superhuman beings that are remembered as gods by the people of Luah Fáil. They’re clearly inspired by the Celtic pantheon, with the nuankin being the current inhabitants of Luah Fáil, but not the first, nor the last. They’re certainly not human, being nine feet tall and able to throw things for many miles, among many other supernatural feats. But, outside of that, I have a hard time understanding the hierarchy in place or how they fit into their society. Again, it’s not something that affected the way I feel about it, but it is something to keep in mind if you like tight worldbuilding that leaves nothing to the imagination.
‘He was there, Naith,’ she said, rising.
‘Is that all it takes to make you stray from me, woman? Just to be there?’
‘That,’ Síle sniped, ‘and Luw is everything you are not.’
The nuankin are able to use the Earthbond to manifest magic in ways that appear to be unique to each person. For instance, one character can wield fire, while another’s power lies in growth and healing. And some appear to have no particular affinity for the Earthbond, being without magic, but just as deadly with a blade. Fueling the Earthbond is Earthblood, a seemingly-finite source of magic that comes from the Earth itself. Overall, I was really intrigued by the magic system. A system tied to the use of a limited substance pulled from the Earth itself is very cool and was used in interesting ways throughout the story.
Ultimately, this is a tale about the struggles between two men, Cu Náith the Warrior and Luw the Hunter, and this is the shining star of the entire book. Náith is a swaggering, arrogant asshole who thinks he is the greatest warrior alive and, to be fair, he is. Luw, on the other hand, is more reserved and thoughtful, the watcher and guardian. This dichotomy is in part what fuels the feud between these two men and witnessing the transformation of their characters from page one until the end was a spectacle I urge everyone to see for themselves. The linchpin connecting these two is Síle, a woman who has captured each of their hearts. What starts out as a petty squabble between spurned lovers soon threatens all of Luah Fáil and the reckoning is equal parts beautiful and heart-shatteringly tragic. Probably owing in part to their source of inspiration, each of the characters are imbued with a certain archetype, from the fiery Enkindled King, to the patient and kind Hunter, Luw. I found this to be an easy way to immediately connect to the characters and while their inception may have been rooted in that, their development soon outpaced it.
Lighting blasted the mountain’s flank, painting the storm-dark slopes with a moment’s frail daylight. A black shadow cut against the glare, sparks dancing from its shoulders, from its crown of horns.
Horns of the Hunter has catapulted itself into being one of my favorite reads this year. I was swept away by the story and completely enraptured by the struggle between these two larger than life characters. Horns of the Hunter is a story of opposites and the struggle to claim something as your own only to learn that it was never yours to begin with. It feels like a cautionary tale torn straight out of mythology, with Náith and Luw feeling like real-world gods lost to memory. I urge you to read this for yourself and the rest of Dorrian’s bibliography has been added to my TBR.