The Last Phi Hunter, by Salinee Goldenberg

The Book

The Last Phi Hunter
Pages: 384
Age Group: Adult
Published on 4/9/2024
Publisher: Angry Robot
Dark Fantasy
Available on:


Ex, the youngest member of the Phi Hunters Order, has spent his life slaying the ghosts and demons of Suyoram Kingdom. While he takes great pride in his mystical trade, collecting dwindling bounties and peddling butchered spirit organs lacks the glory he craves. He’s determined to hunt down Shar-Ala, a demon of nightmares, of madness – who has eluded even Ex’s masters.

In a provincial village along the way, Arinya, a charming muay-boran champion, manages to save Ex him from a brutal ass-kicking, despite being nine months pregnant. In return, she asks him to escort her through the dangerous, spirit-filled forest, where ghosts salivate over the scent of the unborn.

Feeling responsible for Arinya’s safety, Ex vows to help her return home. But as more of Arinya’s secrets emerge, and the elusive demon nears, Ex must face dangers from both men and monsters, or lose not only the respect and sanctuary of his guild, but also the woman he’s trying not to fall in love with.

The Last Phi Hunter is a mythic dark fantasy, equal parts smart, exhilarating, and delightfully fun.

My Review

The Last Phi Hunter is a standalone dark fantasy novel, inspired by Thai folklore, written by Salinee Goldenberg (her debut as author), and published by Angry Robot Books. With an intriguing and rich setting, we will be following Ex, a phi hunter who is obsessed with taking down the legendary demon Shar-Ala, in a story that will not be shy of well written action scenes (I absolutely loved the Monster Hunter feeling of those) and characters that will leave us with a long lasting impression.

Despite Ex being a lone wolf in his phi hunter job, a profession that is losing the prestige in the Suriyam Kingdom, after he's saved from being ass-kicked in a provincial village by Arinya, a muay-boran champion who was nine months pregnant, he doesn't have an alternative but to repay the favour by escorting her through the forest, protecting her from the spirits that crave the unborn scents. However, Ex's mission won't finish after that, as Arinya's secrets will take him in a new quest protecting her and that will take him even closer to the prey he was persecuting for years; danger won't only come from demons, but also from the humans that are chasing Arinya.

Ex is an excellent main character, full of nuances, and who evolves as long as the plot is unraveled; he starts as a lone demon hunter, young enough to be impulsive and energetic, but with enough world view to understand the bigger world around him. He's trapped inside his own loneliness cocoon, one that is slowly melted by Arinya's presence, showing him some aspect of the world he didn't take into account. He also has a sort of companion, the Hound, whose interactions with are quite funny, but still full of heart even if their bond is meant to be temporal during the hunt.
Arinya's character complements well with Ex, even if that leads us to many confrontation times, and some actually snarky interchanges between both; she's key for Ex's development, and despite I feel the romance elements can be a bit too abrupt, I actually enjoyed how it is blended into the plot. She's strong and has enough agency by herself; a part of her is similar to Ex, and probably that's why I feel the chemistry between her and Ex to be natural.

While this story is focused on our duo, Goldenberg has an ability to give us colourful characters, whose sub-arcs manage to hook us; Narissa's arc of redemption even when that means pain is just masterful, as an example.
We can't forget about the worldbuilding, because the blend between Thai folklore and the own author's imagination gives us a rich and stunning setting, with its own mythology, deep enough to charm us, but not overwhelming, as we only are presented a few of the vast pantheon that seems to exist. Outside of those fantastical elements, we also have a healthy dose of historical inspiration, transporting us to a rather unexplored in fiction period.

I can't end this review without talking about the own hunting scenes, which are usually led by a certain amount of preparation, in the style of what we could see in Monster Hunter or The Witcher; the demons are still formidable preys, making of the own hunt simply spectacular (and partly because the weapon of choice of Ex is also quite interesting). Goldenberg's descriptive style does an excellent job of picturing them in a really cinematic and colourful way.

The Last Phi Hunter is an excellent fantasy novel; it will be enjoyed for those that wanted a different and stunning worldbuilding, but also for those that are looking for memorable characters which leave an everlasting impression. It is difficult to believe this to be Goldenberg's debut, and hopefully, this won't be the last novel we have with Suriyam as setting!

The Author/s

Salinee Goldenberg

Salinee Goldenberg

Salinee Goldenberg is a speculative fiction writer and multimedia artist who lives in Washington DC, and is drawn to outsider perspectives. A biracial, bisexual, diaspora writer, Sal often explores themes of identity, obsession and alienation in her work. A gaming industry veteran, Sal has created narrative trailers for titles such as Skyrim, Fallout 4, Dishonored, and Minecraft. When not writing, she likes to paint, listen to records, and play in punk bands.