Immortal Hunter by Kait Ballenger

Note: I lost track of some NetGalley ARCs when my first Kindle died and have been catching up with them ever since I discovered I had them after all. Immortal Hunter is one of those, so these comments are on the ARC.

Immortal Hunter by Kait BallengerThis book starts slow with some awkward writing, enough so I considered giving up. What kept me going is the fascinating world where there are supernatural beings blended beneath mundane existence and hunters sworn to keep the evil ones in check…as much as possible.

While a paranormal romance, the initial scenes are pure hunter with a lot of introspection and guilt from David along with a blunted affect. Allie isn’t much better as she begins in the victim role (literally in a medical coma), but she wakes up fighting. She is far from distanced even though Allie has to claw her way through a drug fog as she heads off to protect the innocent.

We learn about their prior relationship in detailed flashbacks that set the scene for the present. This technique worked for me, though normally it wouldn’t have, because the past had never been resolved, making its feelings firmly entrenched in the present regardless of when the conflict occurred. It also helps to see how the present day David has matured from his Paladin/hero past self.

I ended up liking both main characters though it took some time to engage with them. I can’t mention specifics without spoilers, but one of the reveals deepening Allie’s character is a complex real-life situation I felt was well handled. Their main conflict first appears to be a simple miscommunication, but there’s nothing simple about it. The resolution comes over a series of interactions and seems more realistic than often found in suspense-based romance. They have a second chance and are willing to do the hard work to succeed this time.

I found the interactions between the hunters equally amusing and annoying because, before they focused on business, the hunters were all heavily alpha male in their speech patterns and behavior. How they came across as distinct despite the he-man posturing is well done as is that they don’t demonstrate these characteristics as much in broader circumstances.

One of the weaknesses I noticed is in how the story, while not exactly contradicting itself, deflates the power of crises with later reveals. Oddly, things that appeared initially as close to continuity errors were strengthened by later reveals as well. The read requires a willingness to trust the author, possibly why it is now the second (or third depending how you count the initial novella) in the series rather than the first.

This is a dark story with graphic violence. The point-of-view is shared with both secondary characters and the villain, so we get a greater understanding than just reviewing the crime scene after the fact. There’s also swearing and on-screen, detailed lovemaking, so this won’t be for all readers. All of it has meaning within the story, though, and the relationship struggles felt real to me. They offered some hope against the dark background because David and Allie remained committed to each other whatever they tried to believe.

One more mention of the world, but we see reactions from outsiders and glimpses of the Execution Underground organization that lay down clues all is not right in there. It both deepens the world and hints at more to come in later books. This kind of complexity is a significant part of why I kept reading long enough to become fully engaged with the characters and story.

Ultimately, I found the world intriguing, the characters grew on me, and the story had enough layers to pull me in and overcame any weaknesses I saw with the exception of the marketing blurb. That text gave away the big reveal and helped make the story feel slow at the start because I was expecting the final conflict from the start. Here’s an alternate (if rough) blurb that speaks to how the book read for me.

Young and driven, David never expected his need to save people would cost the love of his life and yet Allie had stomped out the same day he committed to the Execution Underground never to return. He never forgot her or loved another. When his failure to defeat a demon puts her in harm’s way five years later, all his protective instincts roar to life along with the guilt of knowing he failed her.

Allie wakes from a coma in a hospital room after being kidnapped and tortured by a demon. Instincts she’s suppressed since the day David chose demon hunting over their chance at a life together surge to the fore. She escapes into the cold, her hospital gown flapping around her, to hunt once again. Fae skills let her commandeer a taxi to take her to an address where she senses demon activity, but she’s too late. The family inside has been brutally murdered and none other than her ex-fiance has arrived to investigate.

Unresolved feelings and long-held secrets cannot chill the heat that still sparks between them, but can Allie forgive David for what he unknowingly allowed to happen? Can he understand the secrets she kept then and even now?

With demon plots afoot and the enemy at her door, no way is David going to risk Allie a second time. If only they can make peace, he’ll never leave her unprotected again no matter what it takes.

It’s not perfect, but that’s the essence of the story for me while carefully skirting the big reveals that are worth the wait.

P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest read.

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