Uncanny Vows (Huntsmen #2) by Laura Anne Gilman

Six months after the events chronicled in the debut novel of this series, siblings Rosemary and Aaron Harker are living on tenterhooks, wondering whether the omissions in their last report have been discovered and whether they’re being sidelined from their life’s work as Huntsmen as a result. Their latest assignment from the Circle doesn’t seem to provide any answers: head north to Boston to discreetly assist a wealthy benefactor. The strange attacks on the Ballantine home seem to be mostly vandalism, until an otherwise healthy young man falls into a sleep from which he won’t wake.

Once in Boston, the Harkers and their specially bred hound Botheration find themselves stymied by the need both for discretion and to stay on the good side of the Ballantines. It doesn’t help that another Huntsman, Council darling Jonathan Scheinberg, just happens to be staying at their hotel too. He says that he’s passing through, but the Harkers aren’t the kind of people to believe in coincidences.

Aaron soon starts to feel like he’s being watched. Bad enough that the Harkers hadn’t told the Circle about the bending of the ancient treaty between humans and fey after the events in Brunson. The fey themselves couldn’t have possibly caught wind and started showing an interest in them, too, could they?

This is definitely not a book you should go into blind: reading the first, Uncanny Times, will help immeasurably in getting up to speed with who all these people are, and what and why the reasons for their otherwise relatively obscure motivations. Set on the cusp of World War I, these books revolve around Huntsmen, family lines who hunt the uncanny monsters who live side by side with humanity. Rosemary and Aaron are of the belief that only the ones who interfere negatively with humans should be hunted, and the rest left alone — a belief not shared by all of their peers. It doesn’t help that their family is under something of a pall, to do with long ago events far out of the siblings’ control.

The mythology of these books is fairly original, taking the traditional tales and turning them cleverly to the purpose of the stories’ world. I just wish the pacing weren’t so darn glacial. Sometimes, I wonder whether the books are set a century ago instead of the present day in order to distance the reader from immediacy: it seems inconceivable to the Huntsmen that the uncanny are any better than beasts, for example, and they spend a lot of time complaining about things that would definitely be solved by the Internet.

The action and plot twists never really seem to hit either. I genuinely had little idea what was going on whenever Aaron battled this book’s main monster (and also thought it was irritating that he didn’t understand why it wouldn’t communicate with him in their final battle when he’d clearly seen why in an earlier encounter.) While I like the Harkers, I do wish they were both a bit more clever. I get that monster-hunting is meant to be tedious, but I still want that occasional aha thrill, just like Rosemary does. I dunno, maybe I’ve just read too many books and consumed too much media on the subject to be truly surprised anymore by anything that isn’t incredibly novel. The Huntsmen books are perfectly adequate but I want a little more zest going forward, or at least a little more of the social consciousness displayed in the first installment in the series.

Uncanny Vows (Huntsmen #2) by Laura Anne Gilman was published November 28 2023 by Gallery/Saga Press and is available from all good booksellers, including

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