By Marty Mulrooney
Hunted is the second book in the highly acclaimed Voices series written by British author G X Todd. Continuing the gripping narrative that began with Defender in 2017 – which AMO’s review described as “a highly impressive debut that will make you seriously question your own thoughts” – this new novel finds ex-roadside lemonade seller turned post-apocalyptic survivor Lacey a little bit older, a lot more cautious and very hunted.
‘You can’t… do… this,’ Tez wheezed.
‘What a stupid thing to say. Of course I can.’ The red-headed kid addressed everyone. ‘My people and I are taking over now. You can call me Posy, if you want to call me anything. We’re on the hunt for a different type of person now, and you’re going to help me find them.’
Hunted does a very surprising and ballsy thing right off the bat: it ignores returning protagonist Lacey for almost the entirety of its first half. Instead, G X Todd focuses on two very different groups. One is led by the kind-hearted but easily led astray Posy (or more accurately, not-Posy), who returns from Defender a very different character. He now hears a voice of his own, a voice that is quickly taking control of both his mind and his body. Not-Posy kills on a whim, strikes fear into the hearts of his increasingly deranged followers, and is determined to hunt down Lacey at all costs.
Meanwhile, a tongueless, fingerless man named Albus is using the unbreakable connection he has with his missing sister Ruby to save and bring together an unlikely group of heroes, people that he alone sees in defining shades of colour. As a torrent of birds swirls overhead, portents of death that black out the sky as far as the eye can see, neither group realises that they are being drawn together towards an inexorable conclusion that will end in much bloodshed and death.
Whenever they were gathered like this, all their shades drifting in front of his eyes – a network of twining and twisting colours – Albus couldn’t help but think of his sister. He’d loved to listen to her sing, the plushest burgundy-red spooling from her lips as it wound around her body, dripping and dancing with the melody. Her mind had been her own. Silent and free. Like the minds of those sitting around him were silent and free.
Like Defender before it, the world building – and tearing down – of Hunted is highly impressive indeed. Todd delivers an even scarier novel with this follow-up, fully embracing the depravity of not-Posy in particular. Only a few pages are turned before a character’s face is punctured with a pitchfork. The feeling of danger is palpable. Albus has no idea what he is going up against and Lacey is nowhere to be found.
When Lacey finally does arrive, it only makes the underlying sense of dread intensify. She is being very careful to protect herself and the few loved ones she has left, but she has no idea just how many people are out to get her. With Pilgrim gone and Voice taking up residence inside her head, Lacey has had to grow up fast. Each and every character – Voice included – is vividly realised and strikingly real, making Hunted an absolute pleasure to read even as it horrifies you.
The giant’s eyes were filled with a dulled savagery, as if he were fuelled by a wordless need, all humanity peeled away to reveal a beast’s beating heart. His gaze dropped to her throat, to where her St Christopher necklace should have been tucked out of sight, and his heavy brows came together in a ferocious scowl. His thick lips slowly formed a word and he growled out a name, a name it was impossible for him to know, yet she heard it. She heard it! It grated in her ears like tearing metal, the name wrenching through her in a cramp that started in her chest and twisted through her stomach.
Hunted is a worthy follow-up that never takes the easy road. Some faith is required at first – especially when the book introduces a brand new set of characters that seem only loosely connected to the narrative at large – but rest assured, dear reader: you’re in safe hands with G X Todd. The story being told meanders and diverges at times, but it always comes back to the main path.
The way the many different plot threads come together is masterful; the ending in particular is so gasp-inducing that you’ll read it twice before sulking that the third book isn’t out yet. Comparisons to Stephen King – and The Stand – are warranted and justified. G X Todd has successfully taken well-worn genre tropes and flipped them to create something exciting and new. A genuinely surprising sequel that will keep readers guessing until the very last page, Hunted is already one of 2018’s most thrilling thrillers.
9 OUT OF 10