Berkley Sensation, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-21100-2
Fantasy Romance, 2006
Shiloh Walker has books published with Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing prior to getting a book contract with Berkley. Hunting the Hunter is her debut Berkley romantic urban fantasy novel but it is not the start of a new series, technically speaking, since Ms Walker has put out ten prior books about her paranormal vigilante group called the Hunters before this one shows up. Nonetheless, I can say that this book stands alone pretty nicely since I can understand what is going on while having not read any of Ms Walker’s books before this. Do note though – the author has shifted the tone of the series, probably due to a mandate from Berkley, from smut to something… well, less sexy.
Our hero Kane Winter is human, but with a name like that, you can bet he’s destined for great things, or at least great sex with spooky beings. Our heroine Mary Kendall is a 300-year old vampiress who is part of the Hunters – they take down bad people, human or not, whose crimes they can detect using some heightened sense that they have. Kane’s friend Duke Monroe is a shapeshifter who eventually joins the Hunters as well as the Hunters comprise vampires, shapeshifters, and witches. I can be wrong but that’s the impression of the Hunters that I get from this book at least.
Kane and Duke used to be partners in their bounty hunter business until things went wrong one night and a vampire showed up to start killing everybody. To Kane’s even bigger shock, his buddy Duke transformed into a giant cat during the process. He thought he saw Duke died at the hands of the vampire. Things became somewhat confusing in his shell-shocked mind so when Kendall and her buddy showed up to kill off this villainous vampire, Kane ended up believing that Kendall and the villainous vampire were together and they were both responsible for Duke’s death.
Because Kendall used her special powers of spooky hypnosis to get Kane to black out and he later awoke in a hospital, he never learned that Duke was alive and in fact decided to join the Hunters, all fired up to rid the world of evil and all that. Instead, during the next two years he turned into this adorable angsty and tortured vampire killer, going all mean and bad-ass until he stumbles upon Kendall and Duke later in this story. Kane decides that he’s making himself part of the gang despite Kendall’s reservations even as a person from Kendall’s past shows up to cause trouble.
The most enjoyable thing about Hunting the Hunter is the sizzle between Kendall and Kane. Kendall starts out a most charming badass female heroine and I like how Ms Walker gets to show Kendall’s vulnerable side without having to turn her into a damsel-in-distress. However, especially after she and Kane start doing the wazoo, she starts becoming this annoying emotional creature constantly shedding tears and needing Kane to hold her in his manly arms. I don’t know if this is some kind of concession made to reassure me that Kendall is still a “feminine” creature, but I do know she is annoying now.
Kane is a most appealing tortured hero, on the other hand. If he is a movie character he would no doubt sport artfully groomed stubble and unkempt sexy hair in order to look miserable in the sexiest way possible. He’s also, unlike Kendall, more well-balanced in terms of vulnerability versus kick-ass attitude. He’s aggressive without being annoyingly alpha mule or silly in the process and he can be vulnerable yet retaining his hot “I’m hurt inside – who wants to come touch my stubble?” action hero persona.
Kendall and Kane have some good thing going on here as they have great chemistry. Ms Walker also manages to show me how these two may actually like and respect each other when they are not busy ripping each other’s clothes off. These two characters have some smoking hot loving taking place here, which is only icing on the cake after their enjoyable chemistry and rapport.
However, when I take into context of everything that happened which leads to Kane and Kendall meeting once again, the romance really doesn’t make that much sense especially since Kane is supposed to hate all vampires for two years due to his traumatic introduction to them, but he’s very quickly all hot and randy for Kendall to the point that he’s game to being bitten and more by Kendall. Ms Walker is aware of this problem as Kendall points out to Kane on page 105 how quickly his feelings towards her kind seem to have changed. Kane’s short explanation that he’s now okay with Kendall because Duke is alive feels too simplistic to me, however, and I don’t really buy his attraction to Kendall as a result. The lust feels real, the chemistry is convincing, but the reason why the attraction can develop, however, doesn’t feel credible.
The story is entertaining but the story, while fast-paced at first, seems to come to a stall once the two do the wazoo. Really, sometimes sex, no matter how fun it is, really can spoil everything. Once Kendall realizes that someone from her past is causing all kinds of jolly problems for her and everyone else, the story sees her and Kane not doing much other than to have sex when she is not going on some woe-is-me emotional trip. Fortunately the secondary plot involving witches is interesting enough to sustain my attention at this point.
I also find myself wishing that there is something a little different about the alternate reality of Ms Walker that sets it apart from the many dark fantasy tales out there. Kane and Kendall are generally entertaining an likable characters but they don’t stand out from other characters of this sort.
Generally, I find Hunting the Hunter most enjoyable despite my misgivings about the story. I have to hand this to Ms Walker – even when the story doesn’t have much going on other than Kendall tearing up, the story remains most readable. It’s just that at the end of the day the plot doesn’t feel put together as well as it should be and that it doesn’t grab my attention and tell me that this book is something special not to be missed. The chemistry between the characters saves this story, in my opinion.