I discovered author Alexandra Sokoloff when I read a Herald Scotland article where she shared her opinion on the television series “Game of Thrones”. The article itself ended up being somewhat weak in content, but I was instantly intrigued by its mention of her Huntress Series:
Her novels turn the genre on its head and feature a female vigilante who avenges societal evils, and are now attracting the attention of Hollywood studios as well both female and male readers.
Using the mighty power of the library system I was able to check out Huntress Moon, book one of the Huntress Series, the following week. I ended up reading most of the book in one long binge session over Memorial Day weekend up in Northern Minnesota. It was the perfect book to read on a hot, stormy Sunday afternoon sitting in a cabin in the woods.
Huntress Moon is a gripping murder mystery that adds a new layer to the story with each chapter. Between the skilled storytelling and the intriguing antagonist (or is she a protagonist?), I have awarded the book an 11/15 on the Scale of Inclusivity.
Not offensive to women = 1 pts*
I did not find myself physically or emotionally uncomfortable by how the women characters were speaking, acting, or portrayed in this book. I was engaged by, and impressed by, the women characters.
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2 pts
The book is written from two points of view, and spends equal amounts of time on each of them. One is FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke who is trying to unravel a series of seemingly unrelated murders. The other is a woman whose identity we do not know, who is on the run and wanted for at least one murder, and not afraid to get her hands dirty if she feels she has to.
Passes the Bechdel test = 0 pts (out of 3 points)
The book does not pass the Bechdel test. The woman character does not interact with other women, and has some very minor interactions with younger girls. Matthew Roarke has a female colleague, but for the most part interacts only with men. The one exception is when Roarke goes to a strip club to find more information about a murder victim who had been a frequent patron.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 3 pts (out of 4 points)
The first couple of chapters did not engage me as much as I’d hoped. In the beginning of the book Sokoloff describes Matthew Roarke and his colleagues as so incredibly good looking that I had a hard time believing this sexy group of people all ended up on one team solving crimes. This may be due to Sokoloff’s background in screenplay writing (formerly with Sony, FOX, and Disney) where characters will all be played by better-than-average looking people. Unfortunately, it was hard to believe FBI agents (who want to blend in to the crowd much of the time) would stand out so much, and for this reason I took away one point from this category.
HOWEVER, by page 59 exactly (because I stopped and checked it), I was thoroughly engrossed in the story. As someone who also writes for a hobby, and does a lot of editing of fellow writers, I am keenly aware of when I’ve crossed the bridge from critiquing to enjoying. That is something every writer strives to accomplish, and Sokoloff succeeds. The chapters are short, alternating between our two POV characters, making them easily digestible and a perfect summer read.
What really gripped me was the intangible relationship between Roarke and the woman. They rarely meet, yet their lives are completely entwined. The chapters bring you deeper and deeper into just how entwined their two lives are, in a way that will both delight you, and abhor you.
Huntress Moon also explores the fine line between being a vigilante and being a serial killer. The woman is no innocent. Her hands are red with blood. BUT, we gradually learn the context of the situations while the agents are hunting for her across the West Coast, and both Roarke and the readers have to question if her actions were right or wrong. Do we trust her? Do the ends justify the means?
Above and Beyond General Media = 5 pts
Female serial killers are rare in reality, and equally rare in fiction. As you may have gleaned by now, I am not so sure that the woman of this story is a serial killer, even though Matthew Roarke and the other agents would be forced to arrest her as one. Vigilante by circumstance is closer to the truth. Bitch Media posted an article last year which I think highlights the issue I’m getting at, entitled “How Many Women are in Prison for Defending Themselves Against Domestic Violence?” In other words, our female serial killer is doing what law enforcement should have done years ago.
While the book does not pass the Bechdel test, it is through the woman’s interactions with the men she encounters that open up opportunities to discuss privilege, of both the male and female variety. She attracts attention she doesn’t ask for, and finds ways to get out of those situations. She uses her looks to obtain her own objectives, and marvels at how easy it can be to seduce men. She knows the power of looking like a “mom” makes her invisible to law enforcement. She can spot an unequal power struggle (ex: old man bothering a young girl) from a mile away.
She also contemplates her demons while seeing the demons inside others. Whether these demons are real or imaginary is hard to tell. Reality and fantasy blend together for her, and as readers it is sometimes difficult to read between the lines.
What I loved about Roarke’s character is his deep compassion for women. He sees through the muck and recognizes the forces that are working against them. He feels bad for having to go to a strip club to interview witnesses, feeling as though his very presence makes him complicit in the social forces that allow such establishments to exist. He even muses on why more women aren’t serial killers given the massive amount of violence and abuse he has come across in his years profiling serial killers (all of whom were male, or male-identifying). The book was very self-aware of the real issues of human-trafficking and sex slavery that the story was embedded in, and gave them due respect. It did not have to give us gory, inch by inch descriptions of what had happened to people, or what was happening to them. It didn’t need to.
Upon closing the book, I promptly requested the sequel, Blood Moon, from my library. I can tell the first book is only a taste of what is to come. How will Roarke and this strange, strong, complicated woman continue to weave in and out of one another’s lives? Will she be able to continue down the path she is on? What exactly is that path?
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*This is a category that could get very complicated, very quickly, if we tried to list everything that could be offensive to women. Instead, we use this category as a way of showing our own personal reaction to whatever we are reviewing. All contributors to this site are women and can speak from a woman’s perspective. However, no woman can speak for all women so we do our best to explain our choice one way or the other. We encourage all readers to share their opinions in the comments of every post if they want to express agreement or disagreement with our rankings.