Demon hunter Maxine Kiss wears her armor as tattoos, which unwind from her body to take on forms of their own at night. They stand between her and her enemies, just as Maxine stands between humanity and the demons breaking out from behind the prison veils. It is a life lacking in love, reveling in death, until one moment—and one man— changes everything.
Essay by Marjorie Liu
When I was little, my friends and I would fight imaginary monsters, ghosts, the occasional space alien. We would split into teams. I was one of the good guys. And the good guys always won.
Man, those were fun times. I felt like a little warrior. Even in kindergarten I saw life in epic terms—good and evil, mostly. I was righteous. I was indignant. Someone stepping on an ant wasn’t just killing an insect—he or she was committing murder. When the teacher picked on someone unfairly, a defender was required. Injustice could not stand. Wrongs had to be made right. I had a big imagination. And I was such a pain.
But here’s the thing—I’m still that kid. Not quite as intense, not so righteous…but all that epic wonder of good and evil never left me, even if it has a different focus now: in my books, the stories I tell, the men and women who inhabit those stories.
Like Maxine Kiss. Warrior. Loner and demon hunter.
Maxine first appeared in the novella, Hunter Kiss. She arrived in my head, fully formed. Just a girl. Invulnerable during the day because of the demons who live on her body—almost impossible to kill at night, given that those same demons protect her after the sun goes down. Born into a legacy of death, born with the power to commit acts of great evil–choosing instead to do good.
And yet, for all her power, Maxine lives a life that is incredibly isolated. She’s tough, but socially awkward. Strong, but with feelings that are easily hurt. She protects, because it is the right thing to do—but she will live and die without a single person ever knowing who she is. As her mother did. As Maxine’s future daughter will. No choice. Just destiny. Part of her bloodline’s promise: that every daughter will inherit the living tattoos that cover her mother’s skin—her own demonic army. An army Maxine needs to save humanity—against an enemy she is totally unprepared to face.
What a burden. Such loneliness. The Hunter Kiss series is an urban fantasy set in this contemporary world, but what fascinates me are not just its elements of magic, but the hearts that rule that world, that shape it. Maxine’s journey is not simply that of a warrior, but of a woman learning how to live beyond the boundaries of what she has been taught, what she thought possible for herself—emotionally, spiritually.
The Hunter Kiss series is about a woman who has power, but who struggles to use that power wisely. Who makes hard decisions without losing her soul. Who knows how to love, and be loved, and how to protect those around her. No matter what. It’s about a woman who lives her ideals, fights for good over evil, and comes out strong. Not always a winner, perhaps—but who carries on with a spirit that endures, and never gives up.
That’s Maxine. Hunter Kiss.