The book is beautifully written, and kept me engaged all to the last minute, in a fantasy world where the author treats jokingly everything, even the apocalypse, with the skill of a great writer.
My advice: ignore the blurb. It starts well, but, to me, it gives the wrong idea in the end about what matters in this book. It comes across as too hyperbolic and doesn't do it justice.
We can ignore the title, too, while we're at it. Did you think it'd be about bounty hunting? It's not.
We're in an alternative post-apocalyptic Earth. It's an Earth with witches and aliens and demons, and where magilectricity is the power source for technology. 14 years ago, witches have opened a barrier between universes, and demons have fallen unto our world, wiping most of human race. Kai is a boy witch, in this moment in history when witchkind is not, understandably, very popular. The plot unfolds with many twists, developing characters, building the world they live in, and even change the world as they knew it.
World Building in motion!
World building is intertwined with the twist of events, sketched and increasingly polished as we move along. It's world building in motion, unlike the static infodumps you commonly find in fantasy stories. The choice of the author on *how* to get us into the world has been surprising to me, because the world of Bounty Hunter is a rich magical world, it has a complexity that I wouldn't have thought easy to present "in motion". But the writer draws skillfully every detail at its place, shapes it along with the story, in the points where the plot needs it.
I love the world building style at Hollis.
We are drawn into the world in so many ways, through the eyes of Kai learning his way, through a witty turn of phrase, or lively through dialogue. It's like the world is out there all around us, and we can look at it as if looking through a window, but we only have time to take a glimpse, then the plot changes, and we move along with it, until we catch another glimpse, and it all falls into place. It makes so much sense embedded in the story as it is, that our glimpses are unforgettable. But we can't catch our breath, it's world building on the run. What's more, the world changes as events happen, it's not just a background.
I think the sequel will have to have infodumps, and that's fine, I actually like them. Bounty Hunter is the first book, where characters find the way to start healing their world from the consequences of an apocalyptic event. This healing starts towards the end of the book, I think in the sequel we'll eventually experience the world at its fullest.
It's hard to not like Kai. As clumsy and naive as he is, he's trying to do what he thinks right and make everyone happy, with an innocence that I cannot but feel sympathetic with. He has the problems of the age (he's only fourteen), but they only make him so easy to connect with.
Secondary or episodic characters are not so secondary after all, they're well sketched, which makes the dialogue flow very understandable. Kai's "uncle", the team on the bounty hunters ship, are all recognizable individualities. As for Laon, the demon lord, although he appears rarely (more rarely than I would have wanted!), he's a distinct and very likeable personality.
There are hardly any real "bad guys" in this fantasy. (except a witch queen, but who cares about her). The demons may have wiped most of humanity, but they're definitely no cliche bad guys. I was thrilled by what we learned about them, from Laon's first dialogue with Kai to the intellectually delightful episodes inside the demon ship. (did you think you'll have quantum theory in a children book? You have it, and awesomely written and understandable it is!)
Races and characters form an ethically complex landscape, we're not in a simplistic good-vs-evil war like too many fantasy books. That's a really cool thing, it made me identify with more characters, and get involved all along.
Still, a few times through the story, I felt there is a superhero, that Kai's destiny has a little too much of extraordinary. I think this is my problem with many YA/fantasy books, I'm not comfortable with the super in superhero. However, amazingly, every time I felt that, the next pages restored the balance, and Hollis had a joking take on it at just the right time (tm). The perfect bit of joking makes it all fun, loads of FUN.
Brisk, funny, lively, the writing style deserves the very special mention. I loved the turns of phrase, the ordinary dialogue or exposition suddenly turned around, with a deliciously revelatory twist. Hollis knows how to tell things differently than you'd expect. I found myself smiling in many scenes, and I've been entirely drawn in.
I don't look at this book as any other Young Adult/Children book. The writing style is great, and it's great writing that makes a book.
I recommend it for all ages, fantasy fans or fans of science fiction embedded in a fantasy.
Note: I received a copy for free from the author, for an honest review.