Prince Kael has just lost his father to an assassin, and he's the next target. A murderer is on the loose, the kingdom is in disarray, and Kael is determined to make the person responsible for killing his father pay. But falling for the beautiful Cara, panther-shifter and main suspect in his father's murder, wasn't part of the plan. He's not at all sure she did it, and he finds himself going against everything he's ever known just to claim her.
The ceremonial Hunt is approaching, and mates must be chosen to run together. The hatred between the tiger and panther species is all they know. If Kael and Cara follow their hearts, it could mean treason and death.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.59(d)|
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By Harper A. Brooks, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Harper A. Brooks
All rights reserved.
Cara looked at the man sitting hunched behind the table and hesitated. Even in his human form, she could see the lynx within him. Gray and white whiskers hung long from the sides of his compressed mouth, twisting into two braided spindles. His large, pointed ears twitched at the tips in annoyance.
"What could you possibly have to trade?" His voice was low and scratchy.
She clutched the sage-green and gold silk in her hands. All she had to offer was a headscarf, and with it, the last remaining essence of her mother. The lynx was one of the last people in all of Sajra she wanted to give up her mother's scarf to, but she didn't have a choice. He was the only vendor in the marketplace who traded with panthers, and she had two other mouths to feed at home. She needed the meat.
"Well?" he pressed.
Cara brought the shimmering material to her nose and inhaled. Hilisha flowers and honey. The scent of her mother. Before her face could appear in Cara's thoughts and bring the familiar heartache with it, she thrust the scarf at him.
"It is made with gold thread. The beads are real crystal, too," she muttered. "It was my mother's Hunt headdress ... a gift from my father the night of their bonding."
The man snatched it from her grasp and examined the fabric between his curved fingers. He murmured to himself, the corner of his lips curling in a satisfied smirk.
For the first time since Cara had arrived in his tent, the tension in her muscles eased. Since food was hard to come by these days, the forest almost picked clean of any prey by hunting groups, meat was precious and rare. Especially for her kind. If she got some bison meat, or even a small buck for the scarf, she could make it last a month.
"The scarf is made very well," the old lynx began. His mouth split into a full grin. "However, I'm afraid I can only give you this for it." He reached under the table and pulled out a small mound wrapped in brown paper and string. It was slightly bigger than Cara's closed fist.
Cara picked it up and peeked through the opened corner. Her heart dropped. "Rabbit."
"No one will want to buy anything that has been owned by a panther," the lynx explained with a shrug of his hunched shoulders. "I will be lucky if I can sell this at all."
Cara's hands shook as her anger built. A small piece of lean meat for her mother's handmade scarf? It was completely unfair — crooked, even. "That is real gold thread! It is worth much more than a slab of rabbit and you know it!"
He tilted his chin and waved to shoo her out. "That is all I can offer you. Take it or leave with the worthless cloth. I don't care either way."
A growl rumbled in her throat, and her nails sharpened into claws. He was just like everyone else who lived at the head of Sajra's river — an ignorant, heartless brute that judged her kind based solely on rumors and lies.
As much as she wanted to throw the packaged rabbit in his face, she couldn't. Meat was meat, as lean and puny as it was. Her family still needed to eat.
Cara took a deep breath to settle her fury and the tingling power of the change. She pulled the rabbit closer to her chest and nodded. "Deal," she said, her throat tight.
"Good." The lynx sneered. "Now, get out of my tent before someone sees you and I lose business."
She whirled and pushed through the tent's opening. "Dirty rat," she spat over her shoulder loud enough for him to hear.
Out of the protection and the darkness of the vendor's tent, Cara pulled the hood of her cloak up to mask her face. Her gaze swept over the marketplace. The whistling of pipes and the roll of drums sent an energetic pulse through the cluttered circular space. At the far side, a group of musicians played their instruments with mischievous grins as they watched girls dressed in long, swaying dresses dance to the music they created.
Crouching low, Cara slipped into the shadow of two merchant tents, her steps silenced by the roar of excited voices. People in both human and animal form passed by in front of her like a river current, telling jokes, drinking, and bartering their goods away. Tents and tables surrounded a tall stone statue of Sajra, their mother and the creator of their kind. Beside the flowing train of her robes, a sculpted lion and tiger rested. Sajra's hands lay upon the animals' heads. Colorful fabrics and glittering treasures decorated the place at her naked feet.
Cara's eyes rested on Sajra's marble face. Her hollowed-out stare traveled the length of the city's winding river. She couldn't help but feel a great sadness when she looked upon the statue. Surely Sajra hadn't planned for one of her children to be treated with such hatred and cruelty. She was supposed to love them all the same. Or at least, Cara liked to think that way.
Her grandmother, Ryna, spoke often of a time of peace between the species, a golden era where love was plentiful and hierarchy did not exist. The tale always started with the same phrase: "It was long ago when the lions ruled." The lions had been so wise and kind to all of Sajra that the people titled them the Nobles. Cara, though, knew nothing about nobility or the lion shifters. They had died out almost half a century ago.
The tigers' reign was all Cara knew — their push into royalty and their blind eye to the ones below them. The rei and regis's selfish ways were the reason Cara and her sister had been orphaned so young.
Cara swallowed down her anger and sorrow, but it stayed in a thick knot in the center of her chest. She would never forget the look in their cold, golden eyes as she begged for the medicine to save her parents, and their response was to have their guards pluck her from the throne room. The gaurds carried her out kicking and clawing. "Panther filth," they had called her. "Thief!" The tigers cared nothing for her dying mother and father, for Cara, or any of their kind.
Cheers and applause erupted from the center of the marketplace, jerking her from the memory. In front of the monument of Sajra, a wooden dais sat draped in billowing burgundy curtains. A crowd had gathered at its base.
Curious, Cara stepped out of the shadow and stood on her toes for a better look.
Rei Salus was the first to appear above the group. Two tall leopard guards took his side. Even in his old age, his cheekbones were high and sharp. His nose was long, and curved down over his gray-tinted mustache and invisible top lip. Thinning black hair was the only unruly thing about the man. It stuck up in all directions like high river grass. Despite the late spring's heat, the rei wore red and gold robes that hung in thick folds across his spare body. If she moved closer, she knew she would see that his hands were spotless and that every fingernail gleamed. She scoffed. This man had never worked a day in his life.
"People of our beloved city of Sajra!" Rei Salus held up his hands to settle the noise. The crowd quieted. "Centuries ago, Sajra, our mother, was murdered by Maurus, the gray wolf spirit. Through her death, we were granted life. Her great love for us allowed her spirit to multiply into the many powerful species that make up our city today. We celebrate this union, and our history, annually with the Hunt."
There was a burst of excited cries.
Cara rolled her eyes. Like the rei knew anything about love.
"By the end of the week, mates will be chosen to run in the ceremonial race. These couples will be blessed by Sajra with happiness, fertility, and eternal love."
A young man, one Cara had never seen before, stepped onto the dais. He matched the guards in height but doubled their size in bulk. He wore a tunic of brown leather that was cut off at his shoulders and ended at his hips. His trousers matched the tan color of his skin and were tucked into his high boots. Thick, rippling muscle sculpted his exposed arms, and a belt wrapped around his lean middle. A tense hand rested on a sheathed dagger that hung from it.
When his broad shoulders turned, and he faced the audience below, Cara's breath caught. He was beyond handsome. Sweeping dark hair framed his face. It curled around his ears and at the start of his strong jaw.
But the more Cara searched his features, the more similarities she found between this tense stranger and the rei standing beside him — the two brooding amber eyes under black brows, the narrow nose, the distinct curve of the cheeks. Her heart dropped.
"This year, my son, Kael, will be participating in the Hunt and will choose his regis," Rei Salus continued, gesturing to the powerful young man.
Cara's stomach twisted. Had she really been ogling the tiger prince?
Kael's stern expression still didn't waver as the attention shifted to him. As the rei continued to speak about the upcoming Hunt, Cara stepped closer to the tent, covered again by shadow. She should get back to the village, to Ryna and Alina, but something inside her wanted to stay. With her gaze locked on the stage, she forced her feet to take a step back. Then another.
Up and down her back, her skin prickled. Her muscles tensed. Someone was behind her, and not too far away. The rising volume of voices from the crowd made it difficult for Cara to listen for any hints of who it may be. Friend or foe? She lifted her nose and sniffed. Hidden underneath the distinct, heavy smells of the marketplace — burning incense, sweat, and smoky fires — was the faint, crisp scent of mint leaves.
Then, she heard several light cracking sounds, like twigs breaking underfoot. Before she could turn her head, something too small to see in its speed blew past her face, whistling through the air. She tried yelling a warning to the dais, but the words weren't even on her tongue before Rei Salus was gripping his chest. His face twisted in terror, and his knees collapsed under him. The leopard guards reached out, grasping his arms as he fell to the floor.
Many people in the crowd dropped to the ground, covering their heads. Others screamed and ran into the safety of the canvas tents. With the space cleared, Cara could see more of the stage. The rei's body twitched and jumped like a fish taken from water. White, foamy bubbles leaked from his nostrils and the corners of his mouth. Kael, the tiger prince, fell to his father's side and ripped something out of his chest. As he held it up to examine it, Cara saw a slender wooden tube with a needle-like nose. It was a dart of some kind.
"He's been poisoned!" Kael shouted to the guards. His voice was as menacing and powerful as his appearance. Rei Salus's thrashing continued. Every second seemed to drag on as the crowd watched in silent horror. Cara couldn't look away, either.
Then, a terrible gurgling sound spewed from his mouth, and he stilled, lying like a puddle on the dais. One of the leopards reached down and pressed his fingers against his neck.
"The rei ... He is dead," he said.
The prince looked at the dart again, his rage making his eyes glow. Then, his focus moved to something else, something beyond the weapon. A fierce growl tore from his throat as his and Cara's eyes locked.
Her gut lurched as realization hit her.
"You!" he roared, throwing the dart down and pulling the dagger from his belt. "Panther!"
Cara was running before the word left his mouth.CHAPTER 2
Kael leaped off the dais and burst into a full sprint. The remaining patrons parted to allow him through. Anger rippled through him, and his frantic pulse drummed in his ears. "Stay with the rei," he shouted over his shoulder to the two leopard guards. "I will get the panther."
The hooded figure passed the last row of tents and disappeared into the tall river grass. He was fast, Kael would give him that, but he wouldn't get far. Kael had years of training with the royal guard behind him, learning every species' combat styles and complex hunting techniques. He had the size and the power of a tiger, the stealth of a leopard, and the speed and agility of a cheetah. And reigning over them all was the cleverness of his human side.
His father would want him to track the panther down, not waste time mourning him. Besides, he needed to show the people of Sajra he was strong enough to be their ruler one day. There was no time for grief. It was the tiger's way.
Kael jumped into the thick grass and picked up his pace. The stubborn stalks were hard to push aside. They whipped back, biting and stinging the exposed skin on his face and neck like a swarm of angry bees. His ears twitched with each crunch of the assassin's hurried footsteps. When the rows of grass jerked a few feet ahead of him, there was a flash of the brown robe.
Just a little closer.
Then, the grass jungle ended. The Bilha Forest's towering trees rose in front of him, and patches of golden hilisha flowers decorated the soft, muddy ground. He had never traveled this far down the river before, but everyone knew of the panthers and their village at the end of the city.
Rei Salus should have done more than cast the panthers out all those years ago. He should have eliminated them completely when one had killed the oldest Noble, Vallius. His father had been too kind. And now he was dead. He had paid the ultimate price for his idiotic mistake.
Maybe there were others involved, too. If the panthers wanted to disgrace the royals and weaken them by killing Sajra's ruler again, how long would it be before they all rose up in revolt?
A muscle in Kael's jaw jumped as he ground his teeth. When he became rei, he wouldn't be as foolish and forgiving as his father.
The hooded man was in sight now, dashing toward a cluster of wooden dwellings. Kael held out his dagger, his adrenaline fueling him forward. The Bilha Forest claimed most of the space, and he leaped over its twisted vines and the roots that crawled along the ground like bony, outstretched fingers. A thick canopy of leaves and branches cloaked the crowded panther village in chilling shade.
He stopped as the man disappeared into a slanted house set farther back into the trees. It was identical to the others, with its tree bark walls and slumping roof of canopy leaves, but a black cloud billowed out of the top. A fire was burning inside. From the look of the small hut, there was only one way in and out. Had the assassin trapped himself, or was this part of his plan? Did he have friends waiting to attack him once he got inside? An ambush?
Figuring the size of the miniature house could only hold about three grown men, Kael liked his odds. He would go in, slit all three of their throats, and make it back to the palace before dinner.
A tattered and faded cloth covered the hut's opening, and Kael grabbed a fistful and ripped it away.
A piercing scream tore through the silence.
Kael jumped inside and swiped his dagger through the air but made no contact. When his eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room, he found a frightened child and an elderly woman sitting huddled together on a cot made of mismatched furs and skins. The woman's hand was out, as if to stop an impending blow, while the young girl screamed again, burying her face in the woman's shoulder.
Confused, he looked toward the center where a small fire burned low. He had seen the man come in. Where was he?
Then Kael saw them — two yellow eyes peering back at him from across the orange glow of the fire. The hooded man had shifted into his animal form.
"You'll die for what you've done," Kael barked at the panther. Years of built-up anger for their species bubbled inside him. He would kill this one. Then, when he became rei, he would get rid of the rest of them. The panthers wouldn't be able to taint Sajra anymore.
The large black cat stepped forward into the flickering light. The fine hairs on its face shimmered iridescent, and its pink tongue flicked over its nose, exposing sharp teeth. It growled a warning.
Kael wanted to see the face of the man who killed his father. He had to get him to change again. He glanced at the young girl and old woman, an idea forming. "Is this your family?" he asked, his lips curling up at the corners.
The panther's eyes shone brighter.
He waved his dagger at them. "I'll see to it that they are chained up for this, like the animals they are."
The little girl wailed again, and the woman shushed her.
The panther's claws reached over the flames and swatted the air near Kael's legs. Another warning.
Excerpted from The Hunt by Harper A. Brooks, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Harper A. Brooks. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ancestral Enemies An absolute great start to a new shifter series. With this being my first Harper A Brooks!/ story I had no idea what to expect. You'll not only be on the edge of your seat as you turn page after page trying to solve the mystery, but you'll be intrigued from the prologue. She pulled me in with the background of Sajra~ “the blessed mother,” and I cannot wait to read more of these shifters! Cara a panther shifter(quiet and submissive but more loyal than any of the others) went to the market to trade her mothers hunting headscarf at the market for some meat for her grandmother and little sister. It was the last remaining essence of her mother(*direct book quote) the scent of hilisha flowers and honey, but she had to have some food. The panthers have been outcasts for almost 50 years because one had been accused of assassinating the oldest Noble. As a result, very few will trade with them culminating in them being taken advantage of because they have no choice but to accept what's offered. Watching Rei Salus announce that his son prince Kael will run in this years hunt and choose his regis, her skin prickled letting her know that someone was behind her. She could smell the faint, crisp scent of mint leaves, then something too small to see in its speed blew past her face, whistling through the air toward the dias. Before she could yell out, Rei Salus fell to the ground and died. Prince Kael looked up and locked eyes with Cara. Although she's innocent before he could finish yelling "panther" she was already running away into the forest, because she knows no matter what panthers are guilty of everything. Cara wishes they could go back to the "golden era"- her grandmother says it was a time of peace between the species, love was plentiful and hierarchy did not exist. Will there ever be a time like that again? Kael the tiger shifter(elegance, with a coat of striking black stripes) prince takes off for the panther that had just killed his father in front of him and all of Sajra. He needed to show the people of Sajra he's strong enough to be their ruler, there's no time for mourning or grief, it's just the tiger's way. Karl has to find that panther, his father should have eliminated them completely after the one killed the oldest Noble. When he became rei, he wouldn’t be as foolish and forgiving as his father.(*direct book quote). Today he would kill the Panther that killed his father and get rid of the rest when he became rei so they couldn't taint Sajra anymore. When he cornered the panther inside the hut he found out it wasn't a man after all, but a woman who swore she didn't kill the rei. “The dart came from behind me. I heard the crunching of footsteps, smelled mint, and the rei fell.”(*direct book quote). Because he had his guards stay behind he has no choice but to leave Cara behind, but tells them he'll be back. Anyone who tries to hide her would be arrested and anyone who tries to fight would be killed. Cara was just another panther accused of a crime and taken away from the village. It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last.(* direct book quote). Is prince Kael actually thinking of believing Cara? No, it must be the trickery his father always told him about the panthers. They're nothing but liars and thieves, they'll say anything to steal from you. What will Kael ultimately do? Is he going to be the rei that the people of Sajra need? And what kind of rei do they need? You'll have to read THE H
My Thoughts - 4 out of 5 Unicorns - I really liked it!!! ***I choose what I read and review based on what intrigues me!! Yes, I got a review copy of this book, but no one tells me what to think, feel, or write about any book! The cover is beautiful and what grabbed my attention to want to read this book and the description made is a must! This is my first time reading Harper’s work, and it is the first book in this new series! It is for adults only due to the steamy scenes and violence. This is a cool new shifter world Sarja with a unique idea of how the shifters started. I loved Cara’s character! She is strong and has values. She has a backstory that made me cry! Kael’s parents are pretty heartless, but Kael has a beautiful heart. He wants to believe his parents aren’t evil, but he is not so close-minded that he doesn’t investigate to make his own decisions. I have that about him. Cara and him are definitely a great match. Cara’s compassion and love changes Kael for the good. Cara definitely had some issues with not seeing what was going on with other panthers in her village. I definitely want to check out more of Harper’s work and watch for more in this series to see where it goes! This is a great start to a series! I recommend this book to any shifter fan who wants a new and unique world mixed with treachery!
The Hunt was really good! I loved the shifter world the author has begun to create because it is more historical than futuristic, but more importantly I loved Kael and Cara together. Kael is an alpha male that was raised in ignorance, but the moment he meets the strong-willed Cara, his views and heart begin to soften. Their lives took place in completly different circles, but one moment of tragedy and jumping to conclusions intertwined them in ways they couldnt imagine. This whirlwind romance helps bring hope to the kingdom and I cant wait to delve into more of their stories, especially Corbins!
It took a little bit for me to get into this book, but once I did, I couldn’t stop. The story is an interesting and unique look at shapeshifters; the characters are well developed and the story reads smoothly. The Hunt is the beginning of a series but doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, but it does end in a way to make you want to read more about Cara, Kael, and the people of Sajra. Overall, I loved it and The Hunt is a strong 4 Boundless Star book....Beth
This is a great beginning of the Sifter Origins series. This is my first Harper A. Brooks story and it won’t be my last. She has delivered a shifter read that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Cara a panther shifter, needs to provide for her family, her grandmother, Ryna and little sister, Alina and unfortunately there are very few willing to trade with her kind. Cara heartbreakingly parts with the handmade scarf her father gifted to her mother at the Hunt that started their family and the last piece she had of her parents. As she is leaving the marketplace the Rei, the tiger king makes an appearance declaring the Hunt will start soon and that his son Kael, the tiger prince will be participating. However shortly after his announcement and before Cara can warn them upon feeling something pass her face the rei is killed by a poisoned dart. Cara terrified and knowing how panthers are perceived in her world runs for her life. Kael quickly chases the panther believing she is responsible for his father’s death. He despises panthers, wishing his father eliminated them all when one killed a Noble. He vows not to be as forgiving as his father when he officially becomes the rei. When he confronts the panther he is surprised to realize he is a she and a beautiful one. Kael, determined to arrest her for murder warns her he will be back. The mythos behind how the shifters were created in the prologue was unique and interesting. There was drama. Muster and romance woven into this story. I was drawn into this world that I couldn’t put it down. I can’t wait to see where this series leads. *I voluntarily reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book*
Prince Kael has just lost his father to an assassin, and he’s the next target. A murderer is on the loose, the kingdom is in disarray, and Kael is determined to make the person responsible for killing his father pay. But falling for the beautiful Cara, panther-shifter and main suspect in his father’s murder, wasn’t part of the plan. He’s not at all sure she did it, and he finds himself going against everything he’s ever known just to claim her. The ceremonial Hunt is approaching, and mates must be chosen to run together. The hatred between the tiger and panther species is all they know. If Kael and Cara follow their hearts, it could mean treason and death. Review: This is a brand new shifter series that has lots of promise. The mythos behind how the shifters were created in the prologue was unique and interesting. Once we get into the meat of the story, I liked the girl from the wrong side of the forest and the prince from the right side vibe to the book. Being ostracized is nothing new to most people, but for me it added a depth to the story and a great tension for the plot. There was drama, mystery, romance and sexiness woven into this story. I was so drawn into this world that I could not put it down until I finished it. I am curious to see where this series leads. To me there were no obvious couples to come next from the story or if it is going to be a continuation of this couple. This new-to-me Author had me drawn in from the start. 4Stars *I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
*voluntarily and honestly reviewed the advanced reader's copy I was gifted by NetGalley* I really liked the whole world set up, how the different species of cat separated from one perfect being and turned into something sad and prejudice. The writing style was great, the characters were good, and the chemistry between the MCs were great, if not a little rushed in the beginning. The plot was a little surprising, and I absolutely loved the ending. Definitely a book to read.
First read by this author and I wasn't disappointed! Set in the city of Sajra, it has a distincly middle eastern feel I felt. Great exotic location for a new PNR populated by all the Big Cats! We learn that sometime ago a Panther Shifter killed the Rei (King) and now all Panthers are shunned and they live in pretty much destitution. Cara, a panther, has the misfortune of being in the market when the current Rei is killed and is quickly rounded up as the assassin. Prince Kael, is enraged and assumes that the assassin was male but when confronted by Cara, he still imprisons her. When he later goes to release her, he would have been killed if not for Cara's quick actions. When he takes care of her and later lets her go, Cara is very confused over what he wants from her. She is still fending off the advances of Rafe, a long time playmate but he does not set her body alight as Kael does. But he is the next in line for the throne and she is a peasant, she really shouldn't hold out much hope that he'd return her feelings...or does he? Great characters who grow throughout the book and adapt their opinions and long held beliefs. Great secondary characters like Danil and Corbin are also great at moving the story along. Traditions, treason and power grabbing all have their place in the downfall of one regme and the rise of a fairer, friendlier future! Hoping for more in this world!
The Hunt by Harper A. Brooks is Book 1 of the Shifter Origins Series. An ARC was generously provided in exchange for an honest review and I did so voluntarily. This is a shifter paranormal romance that is sure to appeal to many readers alike with it’s unique storyline and background of the shifter world and it’s beginnings, not to mention the mystery and suspense, action and heat that are woven beautifully in this read. What a great start to a new series. Nicely done Ms. Brooks!
The prologue in the first book of this series has an interesting and intriguing take on how the shifters were created. Kael is a tiger shifter and next in line to become the "Rei", king of Salja. He has been groomed to follow in his father's footsteps. Something he has done blindly with no questions. Until now! Cara is an orphan panther shifter who has taken on the responsibility of caring for her younger sister and grandmother. The panthers are the outcasts of the shifter community and are treated with disrespect. They live in poor conditions and struggle for life necessities. Salus is the current king of Salja. Whilst making the announcement of Kael's participation in the forthcoming hunt which is an annual ritual where the shifters choose their mates, something unexpected happens. Instantly Kael's focus is on Cara. She is a panther, therefore guilty! He chases after her only to discover that she is not who he expected when he catches up with her. He has no choice but to take the necessary steps. He is intrigued by her compassion, something that doesn't exist in his world, specifically where panthers are concerned. Kael starts to question what he has been led to believe for all of his life and finds that nothing is at it seems. His life has been full of deceit and betrayal. Learning the truth after all this time infuriates him and he decides to do whatever it takes to put things right. There is a rebellion against the current regime going on and Kael is the primary target. Cara is compassionate and doesn't hesitate to save anyone, even her enemy! She is too trusting. Kael has been naive up until now but thanks to Cara, he is now wiser. Can a panther and a tiger restore the peace in Salja? This story brings another concept to the shifter world. It's predictable in places but that doesn't take away the interest in knowing of how it all turns out. It's a great start to this new series. I was kindly issued with an eARC via NetGalley. This is an honest review.