Hunter and Fox – Philippa Ballantine

About the book

In a world that is in constant shifting, where mountains can change to plainsand then to lakes, Talyn is the Hunter for the Caisah, and a wreck of a once-proud person. She has lost her people, the Vaerli, and her soul working for the man who destroyed her people. All unknowing, she carries within her a Kindred, a chaos creature from the center of the earth that wants to help bring the Vaerli back to power. However, she has lost the ability to communicate with it.

She must also deal with the machinations of Kelanim, the mistress of Caisah, who out of fear will do anything to bring Talyn down.

Little does the Hunter know that salvation is looking for her, and it wears the face of gentleness and strength. Finn is a teller of tales who carries his own dreadful secret. He sets out to find answers to his path but ends up in the city of Perilous and Fair where he meets Talyn. He knows the danger and yet is drawn to her. Their fates are bound together.

Meanwhile, the Hunter’s lost brother Byre is searching for his own solution to the terrible curse placed on the Vaerli. He sets forth on a treacherous journey of his own, which will intersect in the most unlikely place with that of Talyn and Finn.

The ramifications of this encounter will be felt by all the people in Conhaero, from the lost Vaerli to the Caisah on his throne.

Pages: 340 (paperback)
Published on: June 2012
Published by: Pyr
Author’s webpage

This was sent as a review copy from the publisher.

You can purchase this book by clicking on the following links:



I got this book in the mail, looked at the cover and thought, “wow, that’s really bad.” (Hey, I’m trying to be honest here). However, in the interest of being fair with my reading I figured that maybe the contents of the book would surpass the incredibly cheesy cover. Stranger things have been known to happen.

I tried, guys. I really, really tried.

I think I missed something with Hunter and Fox. The world is so incredibly captivating and reminded me a bit of Felix Gilman’s The Half-Made World. I can’t help but be fascinated with that. However, about 100 pages into this book everything took a turn. Someone kissed someone else and then begins the, “oh no! What does this mean!?” inner diatribe that went on f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I think, at that point, I turned off. I guess a turn in that direction shouldn’t have surprised me, what with the half clad, mysterious man on the cover alongside the hardcore woman riding a horse with glowing eyes.

In fact, for a series named after the very fascinating world the events take place in, very little of the book actually has anything to do with the world at all. There are a few brief mentions in the beginning, probably to satisfy readers like myself. Then, the book takes a turn. Ballantine focuses this book heavily on characters. While these characters are interesting, when taken away from the world they inhabit, they are absolutely, horribly cliché. The all-powerful man has a mysterious past and he is, according to all counts, amazingly attractive. I probably should have swooned every time he graced a page. Then, there is the misunderstood, yet oddly heroic and noble storyteller (Finn) who is obsessed with an equally misunderstood and mysterious but hardcore female lead (Talyn).

Really, its every character is every cheesy urban fantasy I’ve ever read, set in a fantasy world that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

The plot itself could be fascinating. That’s probably why I feel so incredibly ripped off. There is mass potential here, but Ballantine sells herself short by focusing more on stereotypical, comfort-level characters who completely lack depth, and not enough on the plot or the world they inhabit. In fact, the level of depth and thought the author put into the world’s history is nothing short of amazing. There truly is enough here to please most fantasy fans, but it’s just buried beneath layers and layers of cliché’s. It’s really too bad.

To be fair, there is a lot being told here that is layered and veiled, and Ballentine does this layering and veiling quite well. The ending is well done and ties everything together nicely. By the time the book finishes readers will probably be surprised with just how much Ballentine covered. There are plenty of cultures, traditions, oppression, history and etc to please nearly everyone. Plus, Ballantine is a wonderful writer who sets an easy pace with her lyrical prose (although it is filled with very similar descriptions. As another reviewer mentioned on Goodreads, Ballantine seems oddly fond of the word “wonderful”).

With all of that happening, perhaps you can see why the characterization was such a huge disappointment. I can only hope that this book is the start of a series that allows Ballantine to grow and develop her characters in more unique, far less cliché ways. At the end of the day Ballantine sells herself short by building an incredible world with a vibrant history and interesting cultures, but focuses more on the over-done tropes.


2/5 stars


(This is another unedited review due to a teething monster….)

3 Responses

  • Hi Sarah,

    Yeah, as my own review said, I was somewhat disappointed in this one as well…and the cover, I don’t get it either.

    The novel is strong on potentials of worldbuilding and theme…but lacks in many other areas.

    Maybe if I read more UF, I would have picked up on the characterization issues that you did.

  • Hmm… I got a copy of this one for review and I haven’t started it yet, though I’m starting to see reviews popping up, like this one, that indicate that it’s not as good as I was hoping it would be. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of Ballantine’s work so far, and I still find myself hoping that I’ll enjoy it in spite of its problems, but now I’m more hesistant to read it. Thanks for the insight; definitely things that I’ll keep in mind.

  • Where did the two stars come from?

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