Title: Wild Hunt
Author: Willa Okati
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M Contemporary, Fantasy
Length: 156 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Jenre
Delaney, a Celtic fusion musician, is a man driven by passion. He’s spent his life channeling that passion into creating and playing music, especially love songs and erotic ballads with a driving rock beat. He didn’t believe any of it was real until he met Robbie, untamed and handsome, and found himself caught up in the whirlwind of a Wild Hunt.
Feral, enticing Robbie captures Delaney’s heart, kindles his curiosity, burns him alive with passion, and draws him unwillingly into danger. The bindings and piercings that decorate Robbie’s skin are meant to keep him from betraying the secret that could save both their lives and win their freedom from the Wild Hunt. But if the Master of the Hunt has his way, he’ll keep the lovers–forever–as his prey.
But now that he’s a part of it, Delaney’s determined to be the hero. He’s keeping his man and he’ll do what it takes to save him. Even if it means sacrificing everything else.
This unusual book by Willa Okati is described as a paranormal by the publishers. However, with its strong overtones of fairy tales and legends I felt that it fit much more comfortably in a fantasy genre. The story creates a mix of two worlds: the modern day and a dream-like world peopled with creatures and people straight out of Brother’s Grimm.
Delaney is a talented guitarist who, with a small group of other musicians, is working at a festival site, cleaning and maintaining the grounds during the summer festival season. Delaney has a song going around his head which he can’t seem to finish and commit to paper but one night, as he and a group of others are playing and partying, a stranger appears with a violin who plays with Delaney and completes the song. After the song has finished the stranger runs off. Delaney runs after him and becomes dragged into an alternative world ruled by the malevolent ‘Huntmaster’. Delaney captures his ‘prey’ Robbie and as payment gets to keep him until the next night. However, the Huntmaster has taken an interest in Delaney and wants to keep him in his world. Delaney wants to keep Robbie but will not submit to the Huntmaster’s demands. The story follows Delaney as he falls increasingly for Robbie and strives for a way to get them out of the clutches of the Huntmaster.
There are two parts to Wild Hunt. Firstly there is the world building. Delaney and his band are drifters, moving from place to place and only really interested in finding a place to make music. As a result they are already removed from the real world, living simply and enjoying what they can of life. The alternative world of the Huntmaster is a dense forest full mostly of sentient trees and plants which help or hinder Robbie and Delaney in their search for escape. The descriptions of this world were green and lush but with undertones of fetid decay. These descriptions of the world of the Huntmaster the sights, sounds and smells that Delaney experiences were by far the best part of the book. At times the world is dangerous and disorientating and I struggled on occasion to understand quite what was happening but the excitement as Delaney chases Robbie was captured perfectly and I was enthralled on more than one occasion by the pacing of the action sequences.
Muscle memory that wasn’t Delaney’s, that was ancient, older than time, seized control of him as he fell. Even as bracken scored his bare skin in a dozen places and broken bits of wood and bits of rock marked him, he covered his face with his arms and drew his knees tight to his chest. Not halfway down and he knew how to land, how to roll up to his feet, poised to run again.
He’d run forever if he had to, but it wouldn’t be long now.
Whilst the pacing and descriptions of the two worlds were done extremely well, the relationship between Robbie and Delaney failed to captivate me. At first their relationship is based solely on sex. Delaney captures Robbie and takes him in the bracken where he is caught. They spend the following day together, again mostly having sex and the next night Delaney has to chase (or hunt) Robbie again. They barely speak to one another and as the Huntmaster has a certain amount of control over Robbie not much is shared until later on in the book. Even though this is the case Delaney falls for Robbie pretty quickly and is prepared to do anything to keep him. Robbie spends most of the book clinging onto Delaney whilst also trying to protect him and only shows any emotional involvement when the pair are having sex. This may have been due to Robbie’s ‘otherworldliness’ but had the effect of making the whole relationship just ring false to me which marred my enjoyment of the book. They spend much of their time fleeing from the Huntmaster in the alternative world which leaves no chance for them to get to know each other in the real world on more than just a physical level. In some ways I felt that Delaney knew the Huntmaster better by the end than he did Robbie as he spends much more time talking, bargaining and sparring with him than with Robbie.
I said at the beginning that this was an unusual book. It is: The descriptions of the two worlds; the complexity of the plot as Delaney fights for himself and Robbie against an all powerful figure; and the interactions between Delaney and his friends all combined to make this book different from anything I’ve read recently. It reminded me greatly of a m/f fantasy, War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, which has the same confusion of two worlds living alongside one another and how music is used to breach that gap and in many ways Wild Hunt is worth reading for that aspect alone. Unfortunately, because of the lack of connection between the two characters, I can’t wholly endorse the book but it will appeal to those who like dark legends and the struggle of an honest man against a lying, selfish being.