Hunter's Salvation
by Shiloh Walker, fantasy (2007)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-425-21632-3


Hunter's Salvation could have been an excellent urban fantasy that delivers both thrills and chills were not for that sagging middle. Oi.

Shiloh Walker takes a break from vampires and werewolves to focus on the witches this time around. Witches manipulate powers of elements to do all kinds of things, and our Hunter hero Vax Matthews is one of these creatures. He has quit the Hunting business a long time ago because of a personal tragedy but he is lured back into his calling when he meets our heroine Jess Warren.

Jess is human, but she's a telekinetic. If this is Misfits Of Science - please tell me I'm not the only one who remembers that cheesy TV show - she'll be played by Courteney Cox. Jess can also sense auras and things, but she's not as skilled in this as her sister Randi. Jess is a reporter whose recent investigation of a series of rape and murder leads her to a club called Debach. When her sister Randi was raped and murdered, the whole sordid ordeal captured on film and sent to Jess with a warning for her to stop her investigations, Jess knows instinctively that the key players of Debach are the monsters responsible for Randi's death. She walks into the club armed with a gun and a determination to avenge Randi's death.

Vax happens to be in the club in his investigation of an aberrant werewolf-witch creature that he and his buddies recently encountered and killed. He and Jess will soon find themselves knee-deep in a plot by the two masterminds behind Debach to create super spook soldiers.

When it is good, Hunter's Salvation is a gripping and sometimes terrifying read as Jess struggles with monsters both in and outside her head while Vax plays the person who will watch out for her since she's clearly out of depths in her current predicament. The bad guys are sinister and terrifying without crossing the line into becoming cartoon villains. Vax and Jess have some sizzling sexual tension going on between them. Really, for the first quarter or so of this book, it's a good read.

However by the halfway point of the story the author seems to have run out of gas. I'm introduced to characters from previous books whose main purpose in showing up is allow Vax to wallow in angst as they cheer him on and support Jess in her attempts to understand that man. Things pick up again in the last quarter or so of the story when Vax and Jess confront the bad guys, but I am disappointed when Jess doesn't get to do anything at that moment. Sure, she is out of her league from the get go, but after all that angst and determination to avenge Randi, I'm not pleased that Ms Walker doesn't even allow Jess to pump a few bullets into the bad guy. Maybe other readers will be thrilled that Vax puffs up like a puffer fish as he goes all protective over Jess but I'm disappointed that Jess turns out to be so useless.

Also, this story has many scenes of lusting and shagging that take place under dubious circumstances. Here, it is not unusual to have Vax sporting a chubby and lusting after Jess when they are in a tense situation where all hells can break loose any time soon. I know some people get off from dangerous situations, but the extent to which the main characters can feel the urge to get it on when they should be on alert for danger and what not is ridiculous.

Hunter's Salvation is a pretty good read, but its pacing problems set it back considerably.

Rating: 86


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