I was eager to read 'The Hunt', the third book in the 'Devil's Isle' series by Chloe Neill, but that was in large part because I had mixed feelings about its predecessor, 'The Sight' (Click here for review), and wanted to see how she planned to progress her series.
My biggest problem with 'The Sight' is that Neill gives the series one voice only and that belongs to its leading lady, Claire Connolly. That's fine when she's where the action is, but it provides a weird disconnect when she isn't, as she wasn't for much of that book. I wondered if this disconnect would be a constant for the series and whether I would get used to it or not, or even whether I wanted to get used to it or not. I have to say that it does appeal to me as a fan of the use of language, having a story filtered to me in translation of hearsay by its leading character. However, it didn't play that way in 'The Sight'; I wanted to be where the action was and that isn't where Chloe Neill was willing to put me.
That disconnect is present here again, as we realise from where the new story for this book is coming.
Initially, we think that it will tie to intrigue, a Containment agent named Jack Broussard having been murdered in New Orleans and in such a way that Liam Quinn, Claire's boyfriend, is the only logical suspect. The catch is that Liam surely didn't do it, as he vanished into the bayou after the events of the previous novel to deal with the magic that was thrust upon him and he hasn't been back since. The title would seem to appear to refer to the twin hunts for Liam: one by Containment, the police in the remnants of war-torn New Orleans, to arrest him, and the other by Claire and Liam's brother Gavin to find him first and clear his name.
Well, no. There's a plantation an hour west of New Orleans called Vacherie and many Paras, the magical beings confined to Devil's Isle, go there on work release to harvest sugar cane from the fields. Yes, 'the overtones of indentured servitude' are obvious and mentioned as being obvious; that's not the key. What's important is that Claire and Gavin stop at Vacherie on their way to search for Liam and they arrive in time to find out that some of the Paras have come down with illness, an unexplained illness that leads to death. As the book runs on, more and more Paras fall prey to this mysterious disease and it gains our focus.
And, of course, they do so at Vacherie, which is where Claire isn't, so we only hear about it when she does and find ourselves with that weird disconnect again. However, this is not as annoying as in 'The Sight', because the illness itself is only half the picture; the other half ties to where it comes from and Claire finds herself right in the middle of that. She's lived her life believing that her mother died long ago and that her father was the only family she had. Well, she's starting to think that he lied to her and that her mother is not just alive but here in New Orleans and part of this story.
So the old problem isn't a big deal this time out. The new problem is that nothing happens for the longest time, except the sort of quiet character building that Chloe Neill does so well. She writes fluid prose that hauls us in and keeps us engrossed, but I put 'The Hunt' down at one point, realising that I was over a hundred pages into the book but almost nothing had happened, nothing of any real consequence to the plot. Sure, we follow Claire and Gavin into the bayou, successfully track down Liam and start back for New Orleans with him in tow, mild tension throughout, but it's all about character. The most important things to happen within those first hundred pages are the illnesses at Vacherie and we don't realise that they're important at the time.
Only later do apparently throwaway comments or events gain meaning and importance. Getting to that point is more like characters moving in and out of focus, Moses learning to joke and Malachi to use sarcasm, Eleanor being Eleanor and so on. Sure, we leave New Orleans and so technically expand the world of the Devil's Isle series, but it doesn't feel like that; it feels like we just took a daytrip away from the action and then returned to find that we hadn't really seen anything. It's only at page 131, when Moses hacks the Containment network and discovers the mysterious word, 'Icarus', that we can realise what the actual plot is going to be.
And, with so little plot to be found, I can't really talk about anything without spoiling it. I've arguably done that already and I haven't said much more than can be found in the back cover blurb. The good news is that Neill is able to somehow keep us engaged even while not telling us anything and she may even have realised how little she was telling us because she shakes everything up at the end. Book four is not going to follow suit, trust me.
Now, I'm not sure what it'll be yet, but it does promise to have all the conflict that 'The Veil' (Click here for review) didn't have, all the action that 'The Sight' didn't have and all the plot that 'The Hunt' doesn't have. I have no idea how long a series Neill is planning here (her main 'Chicagoland Vampires' series has already reached book thirteen), but it may be that we'll look back from much later on and see these first three books as a quiet promise to set the scene before everything hit the fan and 'quiet' became a memory. So, once more, I'm in two minds about this book and I'm leaning towards the negative but I'm eager to read the next. ~~ Hal C F Astell