Infamous bounty hunter Bitter Sweet has led his crew of like-minded miscreants for nearly three decades. They can track and capture any man or woman in the known world…for a price. But Sweet is tired. Decades of pursuing the lowest reaches that humanity has to offer have taken their toll. The grime, the lies, the danger, the death. He’s sick of it all.
But it’s the only business he knows, and business is good in the aftermath of a long and bloody war. The unstoppable armies of the Vol Empire have conquered Pratia, obliterating all opposition and occupying the kingdom’s cities as they establish a brutal new order. The Pratian king is slain in the carnage, but his son—the Crown Prince and sole heir to the throne—has vanished.
Eager to tie up the loose ends, the new Vol rulers turn to those who know the land and its people the best. Bounty hunters.
Against his better instincts, Sweet accepts the contract and sets out in search of the fugitive Crown Prince. But his crew are not alone in the hunt. Danger rides with them every step of the way. Rival gangs, Vol soldiers, deadly trackers and dark magickers are all pursuing the heir to Pratia, too.
Soon Sweet and his crew have a choice to make, hunt or be hunted?
The Hunter's Lament is a great standalone novel, the grimdark debut of the English author Steve Pannett. A low fantasy proposal that gives a new twist to the classic trope of the motley crew, set in a brutal and dark world, where the author will create an authentic study of the band of characters that get involved in a tough job.
Bitter Sweet has led his band of rude and hard guys, claiming bounties, for nearly three decades; he's tired of all the things this job implies, the danger, the pain, the consequences. Treating with so much scum in his life has become a chore for him.
When the possibility of a last job appears, enough to retire all together, he reluctantly accepts; it will mean one more task and start a new life. A job that implies capturing the Crown Prince, who has escaped the city after the invasion of Pratia by the Vol Empire; they won't be the only band trying to get this bounty, so soon they will be between the sword and the wall, having to choose if they prefer to be the hunters or the hunted.
Pannett has absolutely nailed every aspect of the main character, Bitter Sweet; a strongly flawed person, full of melancholy and that is tired of all the things attached to the bounty hunter job. Despite he appreciates his band, it is implied that all of them are hardened by the experience, having in some cases questionable appetites. The voice used to narrate Sweet's experience is extremely strong, reaching the reader easily; Pannett almost dissects the character along with the adventure.
The rest of the cast is also quite interesting, especially how some of their flaws are used as advantages by Bitter Sweet. They are a joint group, with the tension and problems you can expect from a crew working on such an arduous task; Pannett manages to make us care about Sweet's companions.
Outside of how well the characters are drawn, I appreciated how the world of The Hunter's Lament feels as an immense one, which doesn't stop for the particular adventure that is being told. A big empire that is slowly conquering the rest of the territories, imposing their laws and government; I low-key hope Pannett decides to use this world in successive books, as it remembers me of how gritty and crude Abercrombie's Circle of the World is.
I would say that pacing might be the aspect that makes some readers not as happy, as it is relatively slow, dragging at some points, due to how introspective the novel become at some points; but all the time is used to continue delving into the characters.
A strong debut, a novel that I can recommend to you if you like Joe Abercrombie or Andrezj Sapkowski; it's a cruel and gritty world where people have to survive. Great job, Steve, The Hunter's Lament is definitely an excellent cover letter.
Hi there! I’m Steve Pannett, an author of gritty fantasy fiction and a creative specialising in brand design. I fell in love with reading as a child and—somewhat typically—with writing shortly after that. I try to read (and write) as broadly as I can but my true passion is—and always has been—fantasy fiction.
I have only one goal with my writing; to entertain. I want my readers to smile, grimace, cheer and bellow with every twist and turn along the way. I try to find characters who are flawed and complex, fighting with the ever-changing maelstrom of emotion and motivation that is the human condition.
In short, I have only ever set out to do one thing: to tell stories.
I live in Yorkshire with my wife, Fraz—whose constant support is the only reason I ever finish writing anything—and our twin boys, Ethan and Lachlan.