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Hand of the Hunter by Mark Sehestedt

Posted by travizzt on December 15, 2010

Young Hweilan is Chosen to become the Hand of Nendawen, but first she needs to survive the training in order to get her revenge.


Hand of the Hunter by Mark Sehestedt

Hand of the Hunter is the second book in the Chosen of Nendawen trilogy. The first book is titled The Fall of Highwatch and the final book is titled Cry of the Ghost Wolf, which is due out in December 2011. The Chosen of Nendawen trilogy is set in the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons. Mark Sehestedt has written two other Forgotten Realms novels. The first being Frostfell in The Wizards series and the second being Sentinelspire in The Citadels series. He also edited the Eberron anthology novel titled Tales of the Last War. Hand of the Hunter was released December 2010 and published by Wizards of the Coast, LLC.

Nendawen has chosen young Hweilan, the sole survivor of the fall of Highwatch and last of her line, to become his chosen, his hand. After attempting to control the girl with force, he finds out that something deep inside denies his touch. Instead, he decides to let those sworn to him to train her on the ways of the hunt. After being found in a river by a goblin, Hweilan finds herself in an unknown place. The goblin, who isn’t exactly a goblin, named Gleed tends to her wounds and nurse her back to relative health. He tells Hweilan that she is to undergo training to become the Hand of the Hunter, Nendawen’s chosen. Her first task is to learn the Lore from a being named Kesh Naan. After that she is to learn the Making from Gleed. Finally she is to be the Hunt from a cruel fox-like creature named Ashiin. The learning process is hard and painful. Will Hweilan be able to endure the pain in order to seek revenge for those she lost?

Criticisms:
1) Chapter One. The first chapter of Hand of the Hunter felt severely out-of-place. Usually, when I think of a first chapter, I expect it to be more of a refresher. Something that helps to reintroduced the characters along with the main story of the previous book. Here it doesn’t happen that way. Instead the story jumps a few years, I think, and starts with different characters that we’ve never met. Now in some cases, this wouldn’t have been an issue. A prologue for example does this, but this is meant to get the reader excited for the upcoming story. In this story it comes across as confusing. Who are these people? What is going on? These questions shouldn’t have been asked from the get go. However, this chapter felt more like it belonged towards the last act of the book instead of out in front. It would have made more sense while reading, if that was the case. Then the story would have started with Hweilan finding herself in a river. It would have made more sense this way instead of how it started. The first chapter didn’t feel right and felt like it belonged towards the end of the book.
2) Last Two Chapters. The last two chapters of Hand of the Hunter felt extremely rushed and forced into the narrative. The chapter before this felt like a more natural and interesting stopping point than how it really finished. I can’t give anything away without spoiling anything so this is hard to explain. The last two chapters lacked a real climax or any major developments. Yes, there was a twist, but the twist didn’t come across as that important. In fact, it felt more forced in. It’s a shame really to end like this. That being said, it’s not a bad ending. It still makes me excited for the last book. Unfortunately, it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It just didn’t feel like these two chapters belonged in this part of the trilogy yet.

Praises:
1) Characters. The characters in Hand of the Hunter were really good. They were interesting and made the story all the more engaging. The antagonists of the story didn’t seem that involved, and it was a good thing. The scenes that they do have, do set up things to come and I was just fine with that. The new characters that were introduced were all distinctive and made me want to read more about them. They each had a unique personality and seemed genuinely interesting. The main characters were just wonderful. Hweilan, Gleed, and Ashiin were great characters. Gleed was the lesser of the three main characters. He played his mentor role perfectly. However, he never really stepped beyond that role. There were times when he did, but nothing really came out of it. Hweilan and Ashiin were the two best characters in the story. They were the most developed and really seemed to steal every scene. In Hweilan’s case, it was mostly because she was the main character. Still, she was great. Her transformation from generally weak and normal girl into a powerful, skilled hunter was very intriguing. The things she goes through make you really like the character more and more. With Ashiin, she was just interesting. Her cruel demeanor towards everyone made her a little hard to like, but something about her just made you like her. I guess what it could have been is that you never really knew what her motivation was and it kept you guessing. She had this unknown factor about her. One minute she was a cruel creature. The next, she was a genuinely likeable character. All in all, the characters were really good and were really easy to like.
2) Story. The story was very interesting, but fairly straightforward. The main storyline focuses on Hweilan’s training. What Hweilan experienced during her training was unique. There aren’t very many stories that really focus on one person’s training and the trials that they go through. There were parts that were boring, but it was still surprisingly enjoyable. You really see Hweilan grow and become something wholly different. The second part of the story is just as good, but kind of rushed. To say the least, it was impressive to see Hweilan use every she has learned. The story was also fairly straightforward, and that did help the focus on Hweilan’s training. Another thing to mention about the story is that at first, it was hard to remember what happened in the previous book. However, things came back as the story progressed and it was surprising how they came back. It was like a slow reveal and it made the story all the better for some odd reason. Overall, the story was very enjoyable.
3) Middle. The middle of the Hand of the Hunter was probably the best part of the story. Here we have Hweilan winding down her training, and we see her putting it to good use. Honestly, this was the most exciting and riveting time in the novel. It was extremely fast paced and I really couldn’t bring myself to stop reading. What she goes through at the end of the training was shocking. But it all felt right. We also see the training in use and to say the least, it was extremely exciting to see how everything that she learned was used. To put it simply, the middle was where the excitement was in Hand of the Hunter.

Side Notes:
1) Frostfell. It would be a very good idea to familiarize yourself with the events that happened in Frostfell. There are some things that are referenced and brought up in Hand of the Hunter that happened in Frostfell. It isn’t necessary, but it wouldn’t hurt.
2) Nendawen. I have to say, Nendawen is one scary being.
3) Cover Art. The cover art for Hand of the Hunter is fairly good. Once again we have a landscape-orientated cover and that’s pretty unique. It helps catch your eye and draws you in. The scene depicted is just as good. There is a sense of menace with the spiders looking like they are about to attack Hwelian. The spiders do look great. Hweilan does look good as well. Also there are a lot of little details thrown in, for example you can see spider webs faintly in the background. However, I do have to bring up that Hweilan wasn’t wearing clothes when this scene played out in the story. This isn’t a complaint and I am happy that she is wearing clothing. It makes her looks a little like she knows what she is doing. All in all, the cover art is really eye catching.

Overall: 4/5
Final Thoughts:
Hand of the Hunter was a good sequel, but it doesn’t live up to The Fall of Highwatch. It comes close, but there are a few things that did hold it back. First is the first chapter. It felt really out of place and could have been put more towards the end of the book. It didn’t really reintroduce the story or characters of the first book, so it was rough start. The second issue is the last two chapters. They seemed forced in and severely rushed. In fact, I would have rather seen the story end just before those two chapters. That was a better spot to end the novel. However, everything else was really good. The characters were great. The antagonists weren’t as present as they could have been, it worked out for the better in the long run. We start to see them plotting and it makes you interested on what is going to happen. The new characters that were introduced were amazingly likeable and I am hoping we see more of them in the final book. The main characters were wonderful. Hweilan, Gleed, and Ashiin were likeable, played their roles well, and made the story that much better. The story itself was good. Seeing Hweilan’s training was exciting and seeing put it to use was just as good. It also helped that the story was fairly straightforward, allowing you to focus on her training and what she went through. The best part of the story had to be the middle. It was just a thrill ride, plain and simple. Overall, I do recommend checking Hand of the Hunter out, but be sure to read The Fall of Highwatch first.

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