Heartless Hunter (The Crimson Moth, #1)

Heartless Hunter (The Crimson Moth, #1)
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Release Date
February 20, 2024
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Enemies-to-lovers doesn't get more high stakes than a witch and a witch hunter falling in love in bestselling author Kristen Ciccarelli's latest romantic fantasy

On the night Rune’s life changed forever, blood ran in the streets. Now, in the aftermath of a devastating revolution, witches have been diminished from powerful rulers to outcasts ruthlessly hunted due to their waning magic, and Rune must hide what she is.

Spending her days pretending to be nothing more than a vapid young socialite, Rune spends her nights as the Crimson Moth, a witch vigilante who rescues her kind from being purged. When a rescue goes wrong, she decides to throw the witch hunters off her scent and gain the intel she desperately needs by courting the handsome Gideon Sharpe - a notorious and unforgiving witch hunter loyal to the revolution - who she can't help but find herself falling for.

Gideon loathes the decadence and superficiality Rune represents, but when he learns the Crimson Moth has been using Rune’s merchant ships to smuggle renegade witches out of the republic, he inserts himself into her social circles by pretending to court her right back. He soon realizes that beneath her beauty and shallow façade, is someone fiercely intelligent and tender who feels like his perfect match. Except, what if she’s the very villain he’s been hunting?

Kristen Ciccarelli’s Heartless Hunter is the thrilling start to The Crimson Moth duology, a romantic fantasy series where the only thing more treacherous than being a witch...is falling in love.

“Enchanting and deeply romantic, Heartless Hunter drew me in with the first sentence and left me breathless by the last. A story that unfolds like a spell, and one that is destined to capture your heart.” - Rebecca Ross, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Divine Rivals

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1 review
enthralling YA fantasy
(Updated: February 07, 2024)
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HEARTLESS HUNTER is an absolutely enchanting, haunting, and consuming YA fantasy. Featuring a witch and a witch hunter on opposite sides, their path to love is anything but simple. Rune Winters is notorious from the rebellion, as she turned in her own grandmother to be executed as a witch. However, what the populace doesn't know is that Rune only did so because they were backed into a corner, and her grandmother asked to her so that she would not be killed along with her. Rune now works to atone for this by saving other witches from the grasp of the Blood Guard as the Crimson Moth, alongside her best friends, Alex and Verity. She is also a witch, hiding her abilities as best she can.

Gideon, Alex's brother, is the head of the Blood Guard, seeking out witches for execution. When he learns that someone is using Rune's ships to smuggle away witches, he considers whether the vapid socialite his brother hangs out with could be something more dangerous- or could be working with the Crimson Moth. To investigate her further, he decides to court her and see what she knows. As they spend time together, their relationship is dangerous to both of them, eagerly trying to obtain information from the other. As tensions are rising and a witch is captured, they will find themselves on opposite sides of a rising tide that threatens everything.

What I loved: This was an absolutely consuming read that I devoured. It was impossible to put down and kept me up late at night. I could not get enough of this story and wondering where it would take me. The story is primarily told from Rune's point-of-view with Gideon's point-of-view given in various places throughout. In this manner, they each become quite sympathetic and understood to the reader.

Both Rune and Gideon have had troubled pasts that centered around the revolution. Gideon lost his sister and parents to the former witch queens, being himself tortured and abused, which led to his primary role in the uprising. Rune has never forgiven herself for betraying her grandmother- even though she was asked to do it, seeing her executed and knowing she had a role in it changed her irreparably. In the aftermath, they have each been trying to do what is best for their country and its people in different ways. There are no easy answers here with questions of politics, morality of decisions over citizenry, and the nuances of the way power is used vs abused raising questions over what a good ruler is and the decisions they make.

Other themes around betrayal, love, friendship, and romance, the past that haunts, trauma, grief, and healing, and the roles people assume were also thought-provoking. The choices that the characters have and the decisions that they make are never simple and show the complexity of morality, politics, and humanity. The romance is certainly a strong element that runs deeply throughout the book, but the world-building, characters, and themes make it unforgettable.

In terms of the romance, it was everything a reader could want with plenty of longing, a true enemies-t0-lovers element, and tension you could cut with a knife. It was complicated, deep, consuming, and juxtaposed with simpler choices. Beyond the main romance, there were other depictions of love with friends and family that raised the complexities of such connections and their power.

Rune and Gideon were really compelling characters, and it was easy to comprehend their opposing stances and understand their histories through the pasts were shown and the discussions they had in the present with their allies. They were complicated, messy, and absolutely beautiful. They place the reader on both sides of a revolution and continued war with so many feels.

The end definitely leaves the reader eagerly awaiting the next installment, though there was not a massive cliffhanger. Things are certainly not fully resolved, and it was tragic and terrible and lovely all at the same time. I cannot wait to see where Rune and Gideon's paths will lead them in the future.

This book would work best for older YA audiences, as it includes some sexual content, gruesome deaths, psychological/physical torture, questionable or forced consent (past), mental illness/substance abuse, and themes of wars/rebellion, among others.

Final verdict: HEARTLESS HUNTER is a stunning YA fantasy that combines unforgettable characters, thought-provoking themes, and a thrilling romance into a heart-wrenching and consuming story. Highly recommend picking this one up, especially if you enjoyed DIVINE RIVALS, THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US, and/or TO KILL A KINGDOM.
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