The Royal Hunter
by Donna Kauffman, paranormal (2001)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58242-9


Donna Kauffman continues to carve a niche for herself as an author of paranormal, unconventional romances. Good for her. But The Royal Hunter, a time-travel/paranormal/magic/Obi-wan Kenobi story that defies classification, just doesn't have it. It's slow, pages can pass with nothing significant actually happening, and there are some significantly illogical character development too. All in all, this is not Ms Kauffman on a good day.

In the future, people have psychic powers. Don't ask how, I don't think I know either. Evolution? Mutation? I do know Britain in the future has split into three monarchies. Is that Parker-Bowles woman causing trouble again? Anyway, a few decades ago in the future (I know, but bear with me), a pregnant royal handmaiden named Eleri Trahaern seeked the help of an old mystic named Baleweg to escape some attempt on her life. She fled to present day, and died when her daughter Talia was six. Today, in the future (I know, I know, but that's the premise, what can I do?), the Queen is dying and she is determined that the heir she is carrying will be born before she passes on. Hence she commissions mercenary Devlin Archer to return in time to seek out Eleri, a healer of great repute.

With the help of Baleweg, he finds Talia instead. Talia is now a grown woman who is an empath, ie she can absorb animal emotions (yes, play the kook violin, it's pretty appropriate for this occasion). Talia doesn't want to help, because all her life she is ostracized for her gifts and now she is... hmm, I'm not too sure about the motivations behind her reluctance. Mostly it's because she doesn't trust a man who walks right in with a story right out of the movie 12 Monkeys, and she's also afraid of using her gifts. She's also claims not to be the healer Devlin says she is, although Baleweg offers to teach her a few pointers.

And that's it. Oh, she goes to the future - all Devlin has to do is to tell her how the pregnant Queen is dying, boo-hoo-hoo and our heroine loses all perspective and goes "Awwww!" - but it's mostly talk in this story. Talk, talk, talk, in rather hackneyed, stilted exchanges about evil and nature and what a poor childhood both Dev and Talia had, boo-hoo-hoo. The ever-disappearing and shape-changing cat of Dev, Ringer, provides the welcome respite from the psychobabble. When I realized roughly six chapters had passed and Talia, Dev, and Baleweg were still at square one, discussing things in a circular file, I put down the book to play Theme Hospital on the computer, and actually forgot about this book until a few days later.

And for a supposedly rugged, cunning, and capable mercenary, Dev whines and complains worse than a debutante stuck in a truck pit stop. Oh, why can't Talia go back straight away? Why can't she make things easy for him? Why can't she do things his way? Whine, whine, whine. Baleweg reasonably points out that they are better off protecting Talia in the present, where only a few bad guys from the future are after her, rather than in the future where every other bad guy not in the present (I know!) are waiting with bared fangs. It makes Baleweg look like a sensible guy, and Devlin, unfortunately, a complete reckless moron. How did he earn his reputation again?

Talia is typically two-parts kook, one part selfless maternal Joan of Arc, and pretty much nondescript otherwise. She and Devlin have an attraction that sprung out of nowhere that make me go "Huh?" I guess talking philosophy and gritting teeth at each other must be more arousing than I suspected.

The Royal Hunter moves at the pace of a crippled slug and has a tendency to put me to sleep every other ten or twenty pages. I guess it's more of a royal bore than anything. Not that it's unreadable, it isn't. It's just slow, and the hero whines too much too.

Rating: 64


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