Rating: 3.5 stars
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In the aftermath of the fight between the vampires and shifters, Kana has grown closer to the pack and their alpha, Ember. He is working to help some of the victims by developing a spell to help them deal with their resulting stress and anxiety. It means Kana is increasing his chance of exposure to the larger magical world, but the risk seems worth it to help the wolves and the pack.
When Kana learns his news station is interviewing a hunter who has come to town, he realizes he could be in real danger. While Kana has no idea if the hunter is looking for him, or if he even hunts witches, Kana still lives in fear of his old coven finding him. Ember and the pack are immediately willing to help keep Kana safe, along with his familiars Mika and Sora. But staying out of the hunter’s path isn’t as easy as Kana hoped, particularly as news of the the big shifter/vampire battle has started to spread and draw attention. Fortunately, Kana’s magic is continuing to grow stronger and he has Ember and the pack at his back. Now, they will have to fight to stop the threats to both Kana and the pack before it is too late.
Hunter is the second book in Mell Eight’s Witch’s Circle series and I think these are best read in order, as this story picks up shortly after the end of Coven and features the same main characters. For me, the strongest part of this series is the world building and author Mell Eight takes an interesting approach to magic. I enjoyed seeing Kana cast his spells and the way the magical world works. I also like the interaction between Kana and his familiars (who can shift into human form) and the way they can enhance his magic and also connect to him mentally. It all creates some nice takes on the paranormal world, particularly when adding in shifters, vampires, hunters, etc.
The story here has a bit of a twist I wasn’t expecting, which I think helped things along plot-wise. But, as with the first book, the pacing felt a little off. We once again spend a lot of time on what feels like set up, particularly here with Kana doing library research into the anti-anxiety spell. As far as I can tell, nothing that happens in this early portion plays out in any real way in the rest of the book, aside from maybe providing Kana some sparks of ideas for other spells. Kana also never actually makes the anti-anxiety spell to help the wolves, at least that we see or hear about. So this takes up a lot of page time in what is a fairly short novel, which then limits what is left for the actual interaction with the hunter and seeing that conflict play out. Maybe the early part of the story will come back into play in another book, but here it just felt off, making the main conflict not really start developing until later in the book.
From a relationship end, this story continues to be very light on the romance. The first book basically has zero relationship development between Ember and Kana; they barely even feel like friends by the end, let alone romantically inclined. This story opens after a little time has passed and it is clear a friendship has now developed, with the guys now working together and Kana spending a lot more time at the pack house. I was fine with missing seeing some of that develop, given it happens between books. But then in this story, we once again get virtually zero relationship development of any kind. Kana notes he finds Ember hot several times, and there is a moment where Ember shows signs of attraction in return. But that is literally all we see or hear about beyond the two interacting the way any friends would. We don’t see any emotional development between them, any expression of feelings for one another, or anything even remotely physical between them. Which would all be fine except then we get mutual declarations of love that feel completely out of nowhere. I am not exaggerating when I said I gasped out loud and said “what?” when we get the first “I love you.” If you had asked me, I would have said these guys are at the “building a comfortable friendship” stage with a bit of finding each other hot. The idea they are in love just felt really unsupported by anything that happens in the story.
I am find this series interesting overall, and the world building is creative enough to keep my attention. I just wish we would see any of the relationship that Ember and Kana are supposed to have to justify their feelings and to make this feel like a real romance between them. But it does sound like things are moving that direction, so I’ll be curious to see how it plays out as the series continues.