Huntress by Malinda Lo is perhaps not the most precise example of a Girls Underground story, but it was unique and interesting enough that it’s worth profiling. Especially because it’s one of the rare dual-protagonist GU stories, seen from both girls’ perspectives (like Except the Queen, for instance), with the girls in question not only sharing the adventure, but eventually, love.

(I enjoyed the fact that the story had a subtle Chinese influence* – a welcome break from the usual European tropes, although they were present too.)

Kaede – perhaps the more prominent protagonist, especially from a GU perspective – lives at a school that trains students in magical skills, but she has none. Her position there is only due to her distant father, the chancellor to the king. Taisin is a seer, a gifted student. One day they are both unexpectedly called to go on a dangerous journey to visit the legendary Fairy Queen, in the hopes that she will help their people unravel the mystery of the dying natural world around them. While Taisin dutifully obeys her elders, Kaede struggles with the choice, but in the end decides to go.

The girls are accompanied by the prince and several bodyguards, but over the course of their journey, all are killed or injured. They are helped along the way by a greenwitch in a forest cottage, and once they cross into the Queen’s territory, a fairy Huntsman. The Queen informs them that it is her daughter Ellowen who threatens the land’s fertility – the one who has been appearing in Taisin’s confusing visions all along. Kaede must go alone to confront her, but Taisin enters her mind in order to accompany and guide her. Ellowen offers her power, but Kaede rejects the temptation and defeats her. (The anti-climactic quickness with which this struggle is settled, plus the fact that the adversary is only in the picture for a short time, makes this less of a true GU story.)

While this is usually the end of the story, in this case Ellowen’s death hurts the Queen as well, and Kaede must go on a second journey to find the water of life that will heal her. She passes a test and restores harmony to the land. But, sadly, although the girls have fallen in love, they cannot share the same future.

*In a clever twist, the fairies here are called Xi, which is pronounced “she” just like the more familiar Celtic sidhe.