REVIEW: The Hunters by David Wragg

The Hunters by David Wragg is a fast-paced, runaway wagon ride of a book combining long, action-packed set pieces with a dynamic cast of quirky, highly memorable characters.

The HuntersFor years Ree has lain low on her farm, evading her violent past to keep her niece Javani safe. When hired killers arrive in town searching for a white-haired woman and her child, Ree and Javani must race across the desert as multiple factions vie for their heads. Little do their pursuers know, it isn’t wise to hunt a hunter…

The first book in the Tales of the Plains trilogy, The Hunters is set in the same world as David Wragg’s Articles of Faith series (which comprises The Black Hawks and The Righteous). Although there are plenty of callbacks for veteran fans (as confirmed by the man himself in our interview together), The Hunters is completely accessible for newcomers and can be read entirely on its own. Being one of those newcomers, and I was never confused or lost—only gripped to the edge of my seat.

Like any Grimdark writer worth their salt, David Wragg’s prose has a delightful, tongue-in-cheek frankness to it that can just as easily elicit a laugh from the reader as it can make them wince and cringe. So many lines had me cackling, from use of the word “cameltastrophe” in a sentence, to delightfully vivid imagery such as:

“I’ll drive this bolt through your skull and piss in the brain-hole.”

And:

“Anashe nodded, her mouth pulled together like a cat’s backside.”

The characters, as previously mentioned, are all very distinctive and rollicking good fun. My personal favourite was the White Spear—a ruthless mercenary of very few words who has a definitive air of the T-1000 about her when it comes to completing her contracts. Another highlight is the Acting Guildmaster Kurush, whose fragile ego and overreaching ambition make for an erratic, paranoid and thoroughly entertaining internal monologue littered with dramatic irony. In fact, all the side characters are a bit of a triumph; something that is important when dealing with a large ensemble cast. Every character’s point of view was interesting, and I didn’t switch off once.

If I have one criticism of The Hunters, it’s that I didn’t find myself overly attached to any of the main characters—specifically Ree, Javani, and the bickering siblings, Anashe and Aki. This meant that when stakes were high or things went bad, I found myself largely unmoved by some of the plot’s nastier developments. The focus of The Hunters is very much on the action, and while there are glimmers of deeper underlying emotion and heartfelt explorations of family ties, these are probably the weakest parts of the book. I also found the beginning a teensy bit on the slow side, but that feeling vanished the moment Javani’s eyes met those of the White Spear across the packed town square.

And oh, what brilliant action! Once I was done with The Hunters, I realised in a slightly breathless fashion that the bones of story take place over a mere 24 hours. In fact, the entire back half is just one long chase sequence with more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at. Stampedes, runaway wagons and explosives galore, the action in this book simply does not let up and is among the best I’ve ever read in fantasy. Comparisons to Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country and Mad Max: Fury Road are entirely warranted in this regard. Boy howdy! (Sorry).

Overall, The Hunters is a thoroughly enjoyable romp across a fantasy Wild West that I absolutely loved, even though it didn’t quite plumb the depths of my emotions as much as I would’ve liked. I highly recommend this one for Grimdark Magazine readers and am very much looking forward to getting my hands Book 2.

Read The Hunters by David Wragg

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Sally Berrow

Sally Berrow

Sally presently resides behind a mountainous pile of books in Greenhithe, UK, kept alive only by tea and surrounded by a menagerie of animals. A lifelong fantasy lover with a tendency towards the darker side of the genre, she hopes one day to write a grimdark fantasy of her own, inspired by the Golden Age of Piracy. She considers wringing an apology from Joe Abercrombie to be her greatest achievement.