Title: Killer of Enemies
Author: Joseph Bruchac
Genres: Dystopia/Post-apocalypse, Steampunk, Action/Adventure
Publisher: Tu Books
Review Copy: Received ARC from publisher
Availability: On shelves now
Summary: Years ago, seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lived in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones—people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human—and there was everyone else who served them.
Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets—genetically engineered monsters—turned on them and are now loose on the world.
Lozen was not one of the lucky ones pre-C, but fate has given her a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities. She hunts monsters for the Ones who survived the apocalyptic events of the Cloud, which ensures the safety of her kidnapped family. But with every monster she takes down, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is not just a hired gun.
As the legendary Killer of Enemies was in the ancient days of the Apache people, Lozen is meant to be a more than a hunter. Lozen is meant to be a hero. —(Summary and image provided by publisher)
Review: There are few things I find as sexy as competence in fictional characters, and Lozen has an abundance of competence. It was ridiculously enjoyable to read about Lozen hunting and taking down genetically engineered monsters—each one more dangerous than the one before—and so utterly satisfying. The monsters were mad-scientist worthy creations, and Lozen had to put her intelligence as well as her physical (and magical!) abilities to the test in order to survive. Every time she took one of the monsters down, I cheered.
The post-apocalyptic/dystopian world Lozen inhabits is a mishmash of high- and low-tech that took a while for me to get used to. For example, Kevlar still exists (and Lozen gets to wear it), but they no longer have the ability to manufacture it, and Haven (Lozen’s community) is essentially stripped back to a walking-only society thanks to lack of tech/fuel, a superbug that wiped out horses several years ago, and a local population of giant birds that enjoy snacking on bicyclists. It is a fascinating world, especially when you throw in hints of magic and elements from Apache folklore. (Of particular note is the unknown figure whose voice Lozen can “hear” in her mind but hasn’t seen.)
Lozen’s commentary on the pre-Cloud world is interesting from a “look how far we’ve fallen” point, and there are some great passages where she clinically lays out some of the more terrible ways people died as the world fell apart. I really enjoyed that aspect of Lozen—she’s a complicated character who has constructed an unlikeable (or at least unapproachable) façade out of the twin desires not to be seen as a threat to the Ones and to keep others at bay so they can’t be used against her like her family is. I’m not sure I would be friends with Lozen if she were real, but I loved reading about her.
I’d estimate a good 50% of the book is Lozen on her own, either hunting down monsters or making preparations for breaking her family out of Haven. Aside from her family, one sort-of-friend/mentor, and one sort-of-love-interest, Lozen’s interactions with the survivors in Haven are decidedly negative. There are some pretty despicable people who survived the end of the world, and that’s not even counting the half-mad Ones (who are delightfully evil and unhinged) who run Haven and are holding Lozen’s family hostage against her good behavior/monster killing.
I didn’t have any major complaints about the book, though this is one of the few times I wished that the romance got more screen time. As it is, I didn’t root for Lozen’s sort-of-relationship with Hussein as much as I wanted to, even if I do think they had a good foundation for the start of a romance. (Who can resist a gardener with a gentle disposition and a penchant for playing subversive songs on his guitar?) I also wished the book had spent more time developing Lozen’s magical abilities. Sometimes I was rather confused about how her skills were supposed to fit into the mythology of the world or the extent of her skill with them. However, I fully acknowledge that this lack of detail didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book.
Recommendation: Get it soon, especially if the idea of a monster hunt through a post-apocalyptic landscape makes you giddy. The book is a fun, quick read, and the unique world-building makes it a distinctive addition to the dystopian genre.