Samaya Young's Reviews > Elfhunter

Elfhunter by C.S. Marks
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Apr 22, 2009

really liked it
Read in November, 2008

When I first started with Marks’ Elfhunter, I’ll admit to not being in the best of moods, so part of my problem (if it can be called such) with getting “into” the story might be explained by that. At first glance the story appears to be set in a slow pace, and a considerable lack of dialogue fails to really grab my attention.

I like literate descriptions that draw out the “world” in my mind, well enough, and Marks manages this beautifully in those first pages that are there to set the scene, so to speak. You can clearly see the surroundings, but for a while it almost seems as if the two main characters disappear into the description, if that makes any sense. To me, it is the characters that really make me connect. The way they talk, think and act, and at the start I miss this connection just a bit.

Fantasy is a rather tricky thing when you’re not an avid reader of this particular genre, and I have experienced the same problem with a multitude of famous authors who are established in this difficult niche. It is by no means easy to craft a credible world that makes sense, while creating a balance between elaborate scenic descriptions and characters. Few authors manage to do it in such a way that you feel “driven” to read more about it when all the emphasis is on their world, first and foremost.

Still, Marks managed the balance remarkably well as slowly, but steadily my interest into Alterra, the World that Is, begins to take shape. Being a commercial fiction reader, I found that I needed to shift gears and imagine the Elfhunter story more along the lines of a tale “being told”, rather than the proverbial action flick that I usually imagine myself involved in.
It’s a different outlook for sure, but it certainly has its charm.

The Protagonists:
There were a few hiccups during the beginning of the story. Some confusion on my part due to too little explanation about why “the Quest” actually began, the most pronounced.
It made me wish for more description (or dialogue) about the past and the emotional attachment of the two main characters Gaelen and Nelwyn felt towards the poor hapless victims of the villain in the story. To me this wasn’t at all clear until much later on in the story, and that is a pity. Loss in every shape and form can be a wonderful way to engage a reader.
But, as the two hunter elves start their pursuit of the evil Gorgon–a wonderful “bad guy” any way you turn it–this confusion is pushed to the background when the pace picks up.

By this time the pages get turned in rapid succession. The male heroes are introduced and the hints of romance are added to the story, in the shape of Elf Galador and human Orogond. When they make themselves part of the hunt, I’m hooked enough to want to finish the story.

For those who are strict followers of Tolkien this might not be the best choice of reading, since Mark’s fascination with the tales of Middle Earth certainly shine through, and some comparisons might be drawn by those eager to do so. It is not a knock-off, however, since there are lots of elements in it that are very, very different, which is quite an achievement.
For those who thought of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was a doorstop that they couldn’t get “into”, due to drawn out descriptions, tediously belabored details that the story really could have done without–like me–this is certainly a better choice.

Elfhunter comes across as a story that evolves around friendship, loyalty and persistence with a seasoning of action and mild romance, that make it a wonderful story for young adults and adults alike.

The violence is suggestive, rather than graphic, making it suited reading material for practically any age group. It does not lack description, but somehow it comes across as secondary to the motivations behind it. A nice change that is bound to attract those who wish to read something that isn’t about just violent imagery.

The same goes for the romance. Though the hints are there, it isn’t graphic and designed as a side dish, rather than the main course, if you will. It allows the reader to identify with the characters, root for them, and, occasionally, wish that they’d just speed things up, rather than pussyfooting around the issue (at least it was for me) instead of.

Some elaborate suggestions to a turbulent past are sporadically placed throughout the story. These might have benefited from some emphasis on the fact that a lot of time passed, because to me it felt as if it was years ago, rather than decades, but on the overall little, if anything–except for that first little confusion I had–the story made sense and explained about the world Marks created in this novel.

Any of the words of the language she designed for her people–and placed in the story–that didn’t make sense are added in a cohesive glossary and history section in the back of the book. This explained them well, and even added to the world of her making.

The villain, Gorgon:
Marks goes into considerable detail on the self-proclaimed Elfhunter, and this shows a tortured, menacing and powerful nemesis for the persistent elves going in his pursuit. It/He creates a nice balance of good vs. evil, and will certainly capture the readers’ imagination when more and more of Gorgon’s natural inclinations become clear with every page turned.

The prodigy of evil itself: It has been done over and over, but Marks gives the villain enough extras to make him original. By the time the first book of Alterra draws to its conclusion, I am actually a little sorry for the Elfhunter, who, in the end was little more than a product of his creator’s evil doings.
It is a tricky thing to do with the “bad” hero in a story, but in this case it was a job well done.

Throughout the Quest, during which a variety of characters are introduced in a pleasant and cohesive manner, I did get a sense of a connection between the heroine and villain, which caused some suspicions that proved to be incorrect nearing the end. But that was a nice bonus, since only few authors manage to do this in a manner that still makes sense. Usually I can pick out the general plot lines after little more than a chapter, but following the twists and turns of Gaelen and Nelwyn’s story, I ended up being nicely surprised with the design of this story’s finish.

Conclusion:
After some mild hiccups there at the start, Elfhunter turned out to be a very pleasant and entertaining read, leaving me with a sense of curiosity for book 2 and 3 that are waiting on my wish list of books I will want to read, if for no other reason than to find out what is going to happen next in the world of Alterra.
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