We have two viewpoint characters: Taisin, a farmgirl with magical talent, and Kaede, a nobleman's daughter fighting against her conventional marriage-of-convenience fate because she is not attracted to men and because she wants to decide her own destiny.
They set off on a journey to meet the Queen of the Fairies and try to save their world from an endless killing winter. The quest narrative rolls on, but there are some unexpected turns. They lose members of their party. Kaede, in particular, has to come to terms with her calling to kill fae. She is a reluctant killer, and it bothers her, but I think the book could have benefited from Kaede deciding whether she was going to be used for other people's purposes, or because she is making reasoned decisions. She seems unduly trusting of the Fairy Queen's word about what's going on in the world. She never seems to want confirmation that the people she is sent after need to be killed.
There is a sweet star-crossed lovers romance, and I applaud Lo for not going with some lazy love-conquers-all ending. There are more complications than that, even though both women acknowledge they love each other. They are not having problems because of some contrived miscommunication, they have real and legitimate conflicting interests. I like how they appear to be resolving it.
In the end, Kaede goes on a quest with the Queen's Huntsman. I wanted to know more about the Huntsman, and how he came to love the queen, and what he thinks of his job. One of the problems with YA is that there is not usually room in the books for three extra chapters to develop a minor character.
I thought about Robin McKinley while I was reading this book. I thought it shared some common flavors, while going in a different direction. I think if McKinley had written it, there would have been only one viewpoint character. I don't know if that would make it less rich or more direct.
There is a lot of room in this story for us to write our own outcomes, and the world, although lightly sketched, is a place that seems easy to populate. I like books that don't answer all the questions.
The world is a tiny bit asian-flavored, instead of being vaguely medieval-european. They cook rice while traveling, and the important mythical animals are phoenixes and unicorns, not lions and dragons.
A special note on the cover: As opposed to Ash, which had a very vulnerable-looking girl on the cover, the cover for Huntress delights me. It is fierce, direct, strong. I assume it's Kaede, and she looks ready to take on all comers.
Read if: You like a good quest story. You are tired of relentlessly heteronormative stories. You enjoy watching people play with fairy tale tropes like Legos.
Skip if: You like your protagonists wary. You like your endings tidy. You are looking for an in-depth interrogation of fairy.