|Tina St. John: Heart of the Hunter|
Ivy Books (Paperback), ISBN 0345459946
Imagine Katherine Kerr's Daggerspell series meets Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster trilogy, and they have lots of sex. The result will approximately equal Heart of the Hunter, the first book in Tina St. John's new Dragon Chalice series.
But perhaps you don't recognize my allusions. Let me begin my clarification by saying I liked this book. Very much. The story opens as Ariana of Clairmont attempts to buy passage from England to France, where she must ransom her beloved brother Kenrick. Oddly enough, Kenrick's captors don't want gold or jewels. Instead, they seek several puzzling manuscripts Kenrick wrote, which may reveal the location of the legendary Dragon Chalice.
When a scoundrel boat captain attempts to rob and molest Ariana, the brooding Braedon le Chasseur steps in to rescue her. Marked by a jagged scar on his face, Braedon prefers to keep his own company. But in rescuing Ariana, he entangles himself both in her heart and in her quest to save her brother. On their resulting journey, they will face traitors, shapeshifters and Braedon's own mysterious past.
I've always been a sucker for the scarred hero romance, and this book didn't let me down. St. John creates a convincing portrait of the flawed hero in her characterization of Braedon, and Ariana serves as his equal in her courage, determination, and passion. The plot unfolds surely, taking us from London to Calais, and from Rouen to Mont St. Michel, even a magical labyrinth below ground. With each new twist, the author deftly combines the real with the fantastic and balances action with emotional depth.
The writing may not be as nuanced as McKillip's or the plot as layered as Kerr's, but the novel still satisfies. St. John creates a believable medieval Europe shadowed by creatures straight out of an idyllic fairy world, who will stop at nothing to retrieve their treasured chalice. Along with this premise go a finely woven plot, sympathetic characters and lots of skin. I love a good fantasy novel, and what a delight to find one mixed with the heat of the finest romance. I look forward to the next installment in the series.
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