Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-345-45994-6
Fantasy Romance, 2004
Tina St John’s Heart of the Hunter kicks off a new medieval-fantasy series. The faerie kingdom of Avavrin is missing the Dragon Chalice that can bestow its owner great “untold powers”. During the theft, the chalice magically breaks apart into four smaller chalices and anyone who manages to find all four goblet will be very powerful indeed. Silas de Mortaine the evil warlock has one goblet with him and he is looking for the other three.
Ariana of Clairmont’s brother is researching on a lead to the location of one of these cups but alas, he is now held captive by Silas. Ariana is instructed to deliver Kenrick’s research notes to Silas if she wants to see her brother again. But Ariana, being a nineteen-year old twit, attracts disasters like the freak magnet she is. Our scarred hero, Braedon le Chasseur (Braedon the Hunter to you and me), rescues her from a treacherous captain that wants to sell Ariana off as a slave. Ariana makes it easy for these villains by having only one bodyguard with her and acting very ridiculously while she’s at it. A hint that things are not what they seem arises when the villainous captain transforms into a rat to escape Braedon.
Ariana and her unwilling hero soon realize that they are on the same side and they therefore work together to kick paranormal uglies in the bum. Or rather, that’s more like Braedon doing the heroic antics while Ariana does her best to get killed. Ariana is an annoying heroine especially at the start when she acts like a typical thoughtless and reckless hoyden. She mellows considerably later in the story but she still has her childish moments, which won’t be so bad if “childish” here doesn’t come with “stupid”, as Ariana’s actions invariably do. The author gives Ariana some stock tortured heroine baggage but it’s hard to sympathize when the heroine is acting like a silly twit. Braedon is a likeable sort of stereotype: he’s the silent, tortured, scarred tarnished knight-in-armor hero that doesn’t deviate from central casting too much. Still, this is a nice sort of sameness especially when compared to the unthinking hoyden stereotype Ariana conforms to.
The fantasy elements are interesting, although I do wonder why these medieval people are so surprised at the paranormal nature of the villains they are facing. People back then are far more ready to believe in things that go bump in the night, right? Still, Ms St John provides plenty of excitement and dangers in the road ahead for Ariana and Braedon. If the main characters aren’t so much the tried-and-true stereotypes they are or if Ariana spends less time trying to get herself killed by her own foolishness, this book would be a fun swashbuckling romance. Instead, it’s a very readable book that unfortunately doesn’t exactly try too hard to stand out. I’ve read worse, I’ve read better, and Heart of the Hunter is somewhere in the middle between worse and better.