Edition: Kindle (Amazon UK)
Publisher: Self-published by the author
Mhairi Simpson is an up-and-coming new author, and one I’ve had the pleasure of knowing via Twitter for a while now. I am normally wary of self-published stories/authors, but if this also describes you, fear not – Mhairi has had work published in at least one small-press anthology (Tales Of The Nun And Dragon, edited by Adele Wearing and published by Fox Spirit Books). However The Scent Of Freedom found its way into the world, I’m fascinated enough by the world Ms Simpson has set up to be glad that it did.
The story’s protagonist, the Hunter, is something of an enigma, given that a) we’re never given a proper name, and b) the author deliberately refrains from identifying the Hunter’s gender. Instead, we’re shown through the story that this Hunter is clearly not even human. In fact, the human world is not the Hunter’s home – he/she/it(?) has a sworn mission to achieve a certain number of demon kills before it can return home, wherever that is. And this Hunter has only two demons left to kill. The one it’s hunting now, however, is one that got away once before …
Simpson’s approach to personifying this character is a bold one, though it could easily have been one that let her down. Happily, it’s done more to intrigue me than annoy me – I want to know more! The decision to keep the Hunter’s gender identity out of the story goes a long way toward letting it seem less human, though by the end I was certainly not without sympathy for what the Hunter goes through for the sake of fulfilling that mission.
I like the methods used by the Hunter to track its prey – as suggested in the title, it uses the sense of smell. Gifted with an extremely heightened olfactory sense, Hunters can literally sniff out those they are hunting. Ms Simpson does a good job of setting her scenes in this regard – her writing style is vivid and clear, and almost poetic. After reading this story I had to ask her if there would be more of them set in this world of hers, and I was pleased to hear that she intends to write a full-length novel featuring another Hunter. There was just enough information (and enough tease!) in this novella to whet my appetite for more, so I will definitely be keeping an ear to the ground for that book. Simpson’s published work has been very promising so far, and I certainly hope she can keep it up.