25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2006
Elfhunter is the first fantasy fiction book I have ever completed, and I enjoyed it all the way through. I believe that what separated this book from others is that while many of the characters are of non-human races (elves, dwarves, etc.), they still act in quite human ways and are believably flawed (while retaining unique traits of their races). They all go through changes throughout the tale, believable reactions to the hardships they are facing and the things they learn.
And while the people in the book are very human, the horses in the book are very equine. I love the window into the mind of horses that C.S. Marks has given us in this book. While Eros's cunning may beyond the ability of (most?) horses, his motivations, reactions, and movements (like those of his companion Realta) are pure horse.
Gorgon is a fantastic villain. Not only is he a formidable and terrible foe, but he is also just as complicated as the protagonists, and the story of his past is just as intricate and formative as the others', or perhaps moreso.
There are a few magical objects in the world of Alterra, but they were made by and are used by very human characters, making them anything but simple and all-powerful. Magic is not used in this book as a simple solution to a complicated situation, to my relief.
The excellent characters in this book are brought together into a gripping story line which kept me up late at night reading and left me dreaming about the characters when I slept. When I finished the book, I was relieved to know that Fire-heart, the next book in the series, was already available for me to continue the tale.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2006
Though you start Elfhunter believing you can easily compare characters with those from Tolkien's LotR series, you are quickly set to rights by the quirks and personalities of the individual characters. Even more fascinating than the main protagonists are the peripheral characters; especially the horses, Eros and Realta, whose spirited and intelligent natures charm humans, elves and other horses equally, and the dwarf loremaster, Fima, whose merry attitude and deep stores of knowledge add a captivating facet to the story. Of particular note is the antagonist, Gorgon. Initially terrifying, dark and shadowed, he grows into a creature to be pitied and put out of his misery. I look forward to seeing how much more he grows in the next book.
This book is a fascinating and compelling read; however, the author's near constant use of foreshadowing can be a bit tiring. The writing style is a bit stilted and formal at first but loosens as the book advances, so I look forward to the next books in hopes that the looser style continues there. Overall, this is an excellent addition to any fantasy reader's library and I look forward to the continuation of the series.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2008
C.S. Mark's novel, Elfhunter, is strongest when the action is moving forward at a relentless pace. The first Chapter, "The Trail Begins", sets the reader on a long, oft-times exciting journey through Alterra, The World That Is. Here in the beginning, we meet two of the main characters, elven hunter scouts Galen and Nelwyn. Out one day patrolling Greatwood Realm, the kingdom of the Wood Elves, the two cousins discover the recently slaughtered and burned bodies of old friends. Upon seeing how they were tortured, Galen, the older and more driven of the two, will not rest until she has discovered the monster responsible for the murders. She brings Nelwyn along with her, using the elvish oath Thall-dalen, or Steadfast Oak, to signify her commitment to their quest.
Along the way, Galen and Nelwyn meet several brave-hearted individuals: the ranger Orogond, the High-Elf Galador, and the lore-master dwarf, Fima. There are others who they run across and for brief moments travel with, but these five are the principal characters beyond the main villain, Gorgon Elfhunter.
C.S. Marks' novel Elfhunter is compared to J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy; however, Elfhunter is at its most engaging when it does not feel very Tolkiean. The pace always picks up when C.S. Marks manages to emerge past the Middle Earth influences and is simply being herself as an author creating her own unique vision. Sometimes there is so much similarity between Elfhunter and the Lord of the Rings that it becomes distracting from the story itself. Orogond sounds too much like Aragorn, both of whom are rangers with mysterious histories; Wrothgar the Dark One is a mirror of Sauron the Dark Lord; even the twisted villain, Gorgon, bares many of the same attributes with the wretched Gollum, as they both live underground, prefer darkness, and are tortured by a ring and its power over them.
However, when one looks past this light burrowing from the lore of Tolkien, one finds a nuanced fantasy world rich with Marks own personal imagination. Certain details stick out, such as the elves affinity for honey, which makes them drunk when eaten; and the Afterworld, where Galen travels several times along her quest. Some of the more interesting sections occurs when the P.O.V. takes on that of the horses Eros and Realta, ridden by Orogond and Galador respectively. It is odd, quirky moments like this that reveals much about Marks' own unique mindset. On the one hand, one may think that these P.O.V. switchs are probably unnecessary even though they add an essential flavor to the storytelling; at the same time, however, Orogond's steed Eros is one of the more complicated personalities in the novel, as he's an extremely intelligent, very mischievous animal so devoted to his master that he will do anything not to be left behind by him.
Though one feels a certain amount of energy in the characters, it is hard sometimes to tell many of them apart. Fantasy as a genre is more concept driven and less about characterization, and so a deficiency in well-developed characters is at times forgivable. However, it took more than half of the book before Galen and Nelwyn could truly be told apart, as they both are often described with the same words: independent minded, fiery tempered, and strong; both are excellent with bow and arrow, both move silently, and both basically have the same goal, and so the same motivation. At the end of the novel, I am still not sure that I know who either Galen or Nelwyn are, but I can at least point out different actions they've taken which helps me differentiate one from the other.
Ultimately, the villain Gorgon is the more interesting and most well-rounded individual in the story, and the novel is aptly named Elfhunter. He has the most defined motivations of any of the other characters, and a history that logically influences his present actions. In the last pages at the climatic final battle, Gorgon does something surprising yet realistic for his character, and readers will definitely appreciate this literary touch in this fantasy setting. Unfortunately, too many of the other people populating C.S. Marks' world feel like props meant solely to keep the action moving but with no true agency of their own.
Though Elfhunter has an engaging narrative, and obviously C.S. Marks is an excellent writer, there are some fundamental concerns with the prose itself. There are moments when Marks will build suspense with a genius touch, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. Other times, however, she will tell you everything that is going to happen through exposition before it happens in the present moment, creating one too many anti-climatic scenes. Marks will exhibit fine pacing, such as when the heroes have their first battle with Gorgon, a truly superb scene. But then, other parts of the book will be rife with repetition, and the reader will hear the same back-story told two or three times through different P.O.V.s Particularly in the last hundred pages, when the action should be at its tightest, do readers instead get too much over-telling, as plans are relayed in detail by the characters to only be revealed again several pages later. This makes the last act in the book overly dense and at times laborious to read.
Overall, I am very impressed with what C.S. Marks has created. She has put great effort in the telling of this tale of Alterra, and it clearly shows. I would recommend anyone interested in fantasy to pick up Elfhunter, as it is an interesting, fun, engaging read.