N.M. Browne,
(Bloomsbury, 2002; 2004)

After a vicious beating, while her body lies in a coma, watched over by her grieving grandmother, Karen's spirit runs free in the body of a fox. In the new world she finds herself in, she is hailed as an "arl," a sort of fairy creature that people recognize comes from a different world than their own. Befriended by Mowl, a shepherd, Fox gradually becomes Karen again -- in mind, if not in body. Mowl, meanwhile, finds himself on the run with Fox, and the two must become a true team in order to survive what comes. But when Karen is given a chance to abandon her friend and return to her own world, what will she choose?

The idea of someone from our world suddenly finding themselves thrust into a new one and having to cope with the differences is not a new one. C.S. Lewis did it in the beloved Narnia series. Stephen R. Donaldson did it with The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Guy Gavriel Kay did it with lyrical beauty in The Fionavar Tapestry. But with Hunted, Browne has put her own interesting spin on that old theme. Not only is Karen in an alien world, where she knows nothing of the people or geography, but she is in an alien body with completely different senses and alien instincts, and she cannot even speak.

But it is perhaps Mowl who has the hardest time of all. His once familiar world has turned upside down on him, so even things that are familiar cannot be trusted. The father he never knew turns out to have been either a hero or an assassin, depending on to whom he speaks. And it seems that Mowl will be following in his footsteps, if he can stay alive long enough.

Following the development of these engaging characters is a pleasure.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 20 November 2004

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