Heartless Hunter by Kristen Ciccarelli

Heartless Hunter by Kristen Ciccarelli
Series: Crimson Moth #1
Published by Wednesday Books on February 20, 2024
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Witches
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
Purchase on: Amazon// Barnes & Noble// BookBub
Add to: Goodreads // StoryGraph

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A steamy game of cat and mouse between witch and witch-hunter, played out against a backdrop of opulence, secrets, and bloody history.
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 a romantic fantasy duology where the only thing more treacherous than being a witch...is falling in love.


To be stupidly honest, I picked up Heartless Hunter by Kristen Ciccarelli not expecting much. I thought oh, what a pretty cover. Oh, I love witch stories. Let’s try this! BEYOND GLAD that I did! This was SUCH a great Fantasy Romance (I would say Romantasy, but it had actual good plot that wasn’t just in furtherance of the romance.) I got strong flashbacks to another fantasy romance that became one of my favorite trilogies, The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, and classic lit The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, which wasn’t a romance?? But I definitely read it as a romance when I was a child.

The world building is interesting, but light. What I mean by that is, there is definitely world building but we don’t go deep enough to answer basic questions. The island Rune lives on was full of magic and witches. Things happened and now witches are illegal and killed. Yet, we know from Rune’s POV chapters and what Alex (ugh my HEART) tells her, that the mainland is still very much pro magic or at the very least a safe haven for witches. Something that is never explained, however, is what the connection this island has to the mainland. Are they separate countries? Why didn’t the witches simply leave the island as refugees of war? Like, yes I get not wanting to leave your home and you shouldn’t have to, but I still wonder why didn’t they go to the mainland to regroup, and plan their next move. Even more confusing would be if they are one single country. If so, who is in charge? Why did they let the witches in charge do what they did and why did not they care to send a response when the coup happened? That one question is one of the biggest issues with the world building, but even that wasn’t too bad because the STORY ITSELF was so captivating.

Speaking of plots, it was pretty solid for a YA/NA fantasy. It accentuated the romance and progressed beautifully. Rune is desperate to help witches from being put to death, absolutely willing to throw her own life away if it means keeping others safe. The pacing is pretty quick as events unfold rapidly once pieces start falling into place. There’s a slight twist toward the end, but it is fairly predictable.

Now, where the story truly shines is its characters. I fell in LOVE with Alex. Yes, he’s simply a side character – Rune’s best childhood friend. But he is also the love of my life. He is absolutely devoted to Rune, however she will have him. Alex only wants what is best for her and works to keep her safe. Knowing he can’t deter her from her mission, he takes it up as his own. All that said, I am heartbroken he isn’t the main love interest. His brother, Gideon, is. And this is where I feel some Bone Witch similarities. Bone Witch had Kalen and Kance, cousins that loved one another, were devoted to one another, but love came up between them. Here, we have Alex and Gideon. Both love one another fiercely, willing to do practically anything for the other, and then love interferes. Gideon is devoted to his brother and to eradicating witches. He suspects Rune and has to play pretend suitor to get to the truth.

While I’ve gone on about Alex and my love for him, I love Gideon as well. He carries so much trauma and guilt that it is heartbreaking to be in his POV at times. He has what are very valid reasons to him for doing what he does and when he has to confront that against his love for Alex and possible feelings for Rune, it just does things to my poor heart. And then, of course, we have Rune. She is just as bound up in guilt and trauma and self-loathing as Gideon. She holds herself responsible for almost everything that has happened and will continue happening. Rune loves Alex, but how does she love him? Rune is having trouble playing pretend with Gideon. Rune is conflicted between what she knows about witches and what she gets told. It’s just all so deliciously angsty.

I absolutely fell in love with Heartless Hunter by Kristen Ciccarelli. Plot and pacing were good, world building was interesting, but characters are where this fantasy romance truly shined. I absolutely cannot wait to see how this duet ends.


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