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Elfquest: Wild Hunt. Written by Jollyn Auklandus with Wendy Pini. Illustrated by Steve Blevins and Lorraine Reyes. Poughkeepsie, NY: Warp Graphics, 2000. 1v. (unpaged). (Elfquest Reader's Collection, Book 11b). $13.95. ISBN 0-936861-70-3.


Adults, teens; mild violence

Twelve years have passed since the Shards War. The Wolfriders have permanently spun off Ember's Howling Rock band, though the composition is a little different from the Holt Quest days: Ember; Mender; Scouter, Tyleet, Dewshine, and their young son Pool; Pike, Krim, and their young son Sust; and Yun. The ongoing task of the Howling Rock Wolfriders is to hunt down the leftover mutants created by Winnowill, as sensed by Pool.

In the town of Port Bane, memories of elves aren't pleasant; thanks (again) to Winnowill, they have been demonized to the point where it is believed that "soul eats soul when eyes meet eyes." Unfortunately for the young boy Yan, he meets the mischievous-innocent gaze of Sust. Soon, the boy is blindfolded and led to a cave at the shoreline, where a hideous multi-headed beast paralyzes and devours him--the "Redeemer" of the "Lady of the Waves." The hidden elves are horrified at the boy's death.

Pike and Yun have gone astray. The two (unaware of Yan's fate and how stirred up the Port Bane people are) are stalking dreamberry bushes at the boy's house. Pike convinces Ember that his quest is just as important as hers. But Pike and Yun are separated; slightly injured, she stays outside, while Pike skulks around the humans' garden in a cloak to avoid being noticed. Meanwhile, the rest of the elves hunt the Redeemer. It proves far too strong for them, and they have to flee. They decide to contact the local trolls (Flam and Drub's tribe) for help.

At the humans' house, Pike has been bundled into the kitchen by Cassa, who believes him to be one of her kitchen-scuts. As she rails against elves, he sheds his cloak and tries to flee, but she sees him and screams for the guard. Pike is captured--and Cassa is also thrown into prison for having "consorted" with Pike, though she screams her innocence. Yun, staying hidden, sends to Ember about what's happening, and Ember realizes that killing the Redeemer has become even more urgent. Luckily, the trolls have an interesting device to help drain the water from the creature's lair, and the elves help them break through the wall into its chamber.

Pike and Cassa are brought to the lair. The other elves renew their hunt. Their actions drive the Redeemer out of its cave altogether, and in its pain and rage it attacks the humans who put the two captives into the water. The trolls come racing in to help. Finally the beast is dead, and the surviving humans and the elves confront one another. Ember curtly explains the truth of the matter to the humans, who are still spoiling for revenge (and who have no idea what to make of the trolls), but they leave rapidly when another elf and a bunch of wolves show up. It's Teir, who has been shadowing the tribe for a long time. He claims pack-right in the tribe.

Mender is astonished by Teir, whom no one has seen fit to mention. As the Wolfriders return to Howling Rock, Teir and his animals integrate uneasily into Ember's tribe (who mostly welcome him), and he and Mender bump up against each other, largely over who is Ember's lovemate.

Now the story switches to a human stronghold, where the old, scarred Grohmul Djun resides with a handful of men and breeders, as well as his children, secret tomboy Gifa and complainer Angrif. The old Djun sends his reluctant son on a journey to prove his worth as Dominance-to-be. Angrif has little luck in his quest until he stumbles upon Howling Rock. He waits until the elves leave on a hunt, then pokes through their belongings, ultimately finding and taking Scouter's sword. Meanwhile, Gifa chafes at the limitations placed on her because of her sex. She dares to ask her father whether she is worthless because she's a woman, and her father essentially answers yes.

When Angrif returns with his prize, the expected praise from his father is instead an angry outburst when Angrif urges the Djun to send a small force to destroy the elves and calls the old man a coward when he won't. The old Djun knocks Angrif out and orders the boy taken away. Gifa asks if she could attempt to infiltrate the elves, as they seem to like human girls, and destroy them from within. The old Djun agrees to let her try--which ticks Angrif off. Angrif begins to plot his father's destruction, and also secretly has one of his men attack his sister.

Gifa is found, beaten and barely alive, by the elves. Tyleet takes her in. Slowly they grow to trust her--and to her great annoyance, she finds herself liking them. Will she overcome her desire to please her father and truly befriend the elves? Or will she steel herself to carry out her original mission? And will Angrif defeat or be defeated by his father?

Of the three Ember books, this one is head and shoulders above the others, in both story and art. As may be evident by the length of the summary (which omits quite a few details, BTW), a lot goes on within the pages of this book, yet the various story threads always remain clear and easy to follow. All the elves get decent "screen time," with Ember deemphasized a bit to make room for the others, which is entirely appropriate. It's interesting to watch Ember's maturation process; she's every inch the chief, though she's not her father and tends to be a tad less diplomatic than him. (Of course, Cutter is a hard act to follow!) The human side of the story is particularly well done; Gifa and Angrif are both excellent characters, and Gifa's tragic dilemma is handled with dexterity. The Djun is as ruthless as he used to be, just more low-key about it; there's quite a contrast between his almost-humorous face and the chilling words that issue from it. The new troll tribe, and the strong contact between it and the elves, is a welcome evolution from Picknose's grudging and short-lived tolerance. And one wonders if the spoiled Trinket, foisted off on the long-suffering Flam and Drub, will ever grow up! It's a new era for both trolls and elves.

The art is really excellent, the first time I've been able to say this in the Ember series. Blevins is much better here than elsewhere, and Reyes's section (she handles everything after the elves return to Howling Rock, as well as the cover art) is positively beautiful. There's even a little whimsy from both artists: Blevins' goggled trolls on Flam's water-pumping machines, and Reyes' quiet sound effects (e.g., a wolf pup grabs Gifa's poisoned rag with a tiny "Wuf!").

There are a few minor problems in the book. One small continuity error appears to be Angrif's horse, which broke its leg and was killed before Angrif found Howling Rock, prompting Angrif to consider walking home--yet he rides home with Scouter's sword. Another problem is that it's hard to follow the progress of Angrif's recruitment of men willing to oppose the old Djun. There is one cryptic scene with a message arrow whose meaning I simply cannot fathom. But these are minor incidents that do not detract from the story as a whole.

Wild Hunt is a thoroughly enjoyable work that can stand on its own to some degree--there's a decent amount of backstory presented at the beginning that will clear up some confusion for readers, though of course it always helps to be familiar with the elves' story. Thus, I'm tempted to recommend its purchase before its two predecessors, but my sense of continuity causes me to ultimately prefer acquiring the books in chronological order.

Buy it directly from Warp Graphics!

Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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