Review: The Hunter’s Apprentice by Lindsay Schopfer

Review: The Hunter’s Apprentice by Lindsay SchopferThe Hunter's Apprentice: A Keltin Moore Adventure (The Adventures of Keltin Moore #4) by Lindsay Schopfer
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: adventure, fantasy, steampunk
Series: Keltin Moore #4
Pages: 275
Published by Lindsay Schopfer on May 25, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Can the beast hunter's apprentice prove his worth?

Professional monster hunter Keltin Moore has worked hard to teach his trade to Jaylocke, his good friend and apprentice. But the time for teaching is over when Jaylocke receives word that the woman of his dreams may marry someone else if he cannot prove to his people that he has mastered his trade.

Together, master and apprentice must assemble their friends and travel the fabled Salt Road to the annual Gathering of the Weycliff wayfarers. But there's more than a simple test of skill awaiting them among the mysterious, nomadic people. Bitter rivalries and titanic beasts will put Keltin's talents as hunter, teacher, and friend to the test as Jaylocke struggles to prepare for the most important trial of his life.

This is the fourth installment of the award-winning Adventures of Keltin Moore, a series of steampunk-flavored fantasy novels. If you love compelling characters, fantastic creatures, and intense action then you will love these stories!

My Review:

Keltin Moore’s fourth adventure represents a turning point for the famous Beast Hunter AND his family of choice in this fantasy-tinged, steampunk-powered series. When his story began in The Beast Hunter, Moore was very much a lone wolf – in the best Western tradition – relying on himself and his trusty weaponry to make a living out in the wilds, only returning to his rented room in his tiny hometown to rest, refuel, resupply, and of course pick up new jobs so that he can pay for all of the above.

Over the course of Keltin’s subsequent adventures, Into the North and Dangerous Territory, we’ve seen the boundaries of Keltin’s world AND his circle of trusted friends and found family expand to include his business partners and friends, Bor’ve’tai and Jaylocke, his office manager and the love of his life Elaine Desnov (the heroine of The Beast Hunter) and a new business in a bigger town that he hopes will support them all – so that he can finally propose to Elaine.

But Jaylocke isn’t just his friend and his business partner, Jaylocke is also Keltin’s apprentice as a Beast Hunter, and that’s where this story comes in and gives the reader a much deeper dive into the places and peoples that make up Keltin’s not-quite-Weird-West world.

Not all the inhabitants of that world are ‘Original Recipe’ humans. (Which makes a whole lot of assumptions, but I have to start somewhere). Keltin’s partner Bor’ve’tai is a loopi, who look a bit like Sasquatch but are sentient, sapient and have magic. Jaylocke, on the other hand, is a Weycliff wayfarer. His people appear to be a combination of Native American and Romani, but again, I’m using analogies that may not be 100% on any front but helped to get me into the story.

Jaylocke’s people also have magic, but it’s a kind of generational magic that allows adults to tap directly into the knowledge, memories and experiences of their direct ancestors. It’s magic that only comes fully into use when each individual is declared an adult by proving that they have brought a new branch of expertise into their family line. It’s time for Jaylocke to prove that he has become a Beast Hunter in his own right so that he can be declared an adult and marry the girl of his dreams.

The question is whether or not Jaylocke is ready, both to declare himself an adult and a master of his craft – AND to prove it. So, the story of this fourth book in the series, The Hunter’s Apprentice, is all about that apprentice’s quest to stop being one. And it’s about the trials and tribulations he faces as he looks into his own heart to decide whether or not he’s worthy of it after all.

Escape Rating A: I read the second book in this series, Into the North, first. Between the remoteness of the setting, the whole ‘frozen northlands’ vibe of the thing, and the gold rush in the background of the story, in that book it seemed like the author was channeling Jack London’s Alaskan adventure stories into a place that was not Alaska as it was, or even as London portrayed it was, but somewhere very like it in a world not our own.

As I’ve continued through the series – which I just devour every time around – it’s not so much that Keltin’s world resembles ours as it was but that it reads like an even further out there Weird West. His world isn’t ours, it isn’t a fantastic version of ours in the way that Weird West stories generally are, but it still has that feel to it.

So if you liked Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker or Laura Anne Gilman’s Huntsmen series (starting with Uncanny Times and continuing with Uncanny Vows later this year), or if the upcoming collection The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny sounds like it might be your jam, you’ll love Keltin Moore and his fantasy-ish, steampunk-like, world.

This particular story, set in that world, does a bunch of things really, really well for a story that isn’t all that long but does manage to pack a LOT of story into its pages.

First, it’s a road story. Keltin and company take a trip WAY outside Keltin’s comfort zone, giving the reader the opportunity to see more of his world, both geographically and culturally as we get to see Jaylocke’s people at their most removed from so-called civilization and at the peak of their ceremonial celebrations.

It’s an outsider’s inside view and the reader learns as much as Keltin does.

It’s also a view of a world that lets nature and the creatures within it be who and what they are in a kind of live and let live symbiosis that is as appealing as it is dangerous – which is how we get caught up in Jaylocke’s quest. As very much does Keltin.

At the same time, it’s a particular part of the hero’s journey, intentionally for Jaylocke but also for Keltin. It’s Jaylocke’s chance to prove he has become an adult, but it’s also Keltin’s chance to learn to let go. Their journey, separately and together is harrowing – as it should be.

The story ends with the hope of a brighter – but different future. One that I hope we get to explore in future books in the series. May they come soon!

Review: Dangerous Territory by Lindsay Schopfer

Review: Dangerous Territory by Lindsay SchopferDangerous Territory: A Keltin Moore Adventure by Lindsay Schopfer
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: adventure, fantasy, steampunk
Series: Keltin Moore #3
Pages: 253
Published by Independently Published on June 1, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's

The beast hunter is on a mission of mercy to save the love of his life.

Life is good for professional monster hunter Keltin Moore. His new beast hunting company is finding great success as he returns to distant Krendaria to protect its citizens from creatures of nightmare.

But when he receives word that the woman he loves is in trouble, he will leave the world that he knows behind and plunge headlong into dangers he has never faced before.

Somehow, he’ll have to sneak across a closed border, find his beloved and her family, and escort them all safely back out of the country. From dodging sadistic government agents to racing through beast-infested forests, will Keltin and his new friends survive their escape through Dangerous Territory?

This is the third installment of the award-winning Adventures of Keltin Moore, a series of steampunk-flavored fantasy novels. If you love compelling characters, fantastic creatures, and intense action then you will love these stories!

My Review:

The Adventures of Keltin Moore may be a difficult series to categorize but it’s a terrific action/adventure read.

Three books in, after The Beast Hunter, Into the North and now Dangerous Territory, the series as a whole feels like steampunk action/adventure, with kind of a “Weird West” vibe. But the weird in that West isn’t the west of anyplace on our own world, past or present. Instead, Keltin Moore’s beast hunting adventures take place in a world made up of his native Riltvin, with political shenanigans impacting his life and work from far away Krendaria and Malpinon, just so far. Keltin’s travels to his wider world give the series a bit of epic scope, without getting into the kind of vast empire politicking that epic fantasy is famous for.

And then there are those beasts that Keltin hunts. The beasts feel/read like magical constructs. That may not be true, but they remind me of the “Changed” beasts in some of Mercedes Lackey’s darker books. Keltin is not a trophy hunter – far from it. He is a defender of “regular folks” whose lives have been beset by rampaging “boils” as the beasts are called. The beasts are dangerous and deadly, fierce and heavily protected by natural armor.

It takes an expert to kill one. It takes a strong and lucky expert to kill as many beasts as Keltin has eliminated. Keltin makes me think of several variations of the Alaskan saying, “There are old bush pilots, and there are bold bush pilots, but there are no old, bold bush pilots. It feels like the same can be said of beast hunters in Keltin’s world.

The story in Dangerous Territory takes Keltin back to the sight of his greatest hunt, the huge beast-culling in northern Krendaria that formed the background of his first adventure, The Beast Hunter.

But Keltin sees Krendaria as a blood-soaked land he has no desire to go back to. He found himself as a leader, whether he ever wanted to become one or not, and he still feels guilty about the mistakes he made and the men he couldn’t save – even if he did the best he could and saved many who would otherwise have been lost to the boils.

However, this journey is one that he feels he has to make. Not just because Krendaria feels like unfinished business, but because Keltin has unfinished emotional business to take care of as well. And as dangerous as boil-infested Krendaria and politically fractured Malpinon are, the most dangerous territory that Keltin has to navigate in this adventure is the territory of his own heart.

Escape Rating A-: There’s just something about this series that I eat up with a spoon. They are all relatively compact books, tell a compact story featuring an interesting and empathetic main character. I want to know what happens to Keltin next and I’m really sorry there’s no fourth book immediately available.

That being said, what I like about this series is the way that it seems to get to the heart of its matter without bogging down into the myriad details that it could. And as I’m saying that I wish there were a bit more worldbuilding, and yet the series works fine without it. It feels like we’re getting the worldbuilding in bits and pieces, as Keltin explores his wider world we do too.

It would have been so easy for Keltin’s story to descend into “gun porn” with endless details about the weapons and ammunition that he uses. Instead there’s just enough detail for the reader to understand why it’s important to Keltin’s survival without diving so deep into the details that readers interested in Keltin’s story and not Keltin’s armament have just what they need to go on.

But it’s the story, and the spare nature of how it’s conveyed, that simply work for at least this reader. Part of why that works is Keltin himself. He is not a storyteller, and he doesn’t want to be. And we’re seeing his world and his journey from his perspective but not in first person singular. We’re not in his head, but rather we’re following a third-person narrator who knows a bit more than Keltin does about what’s going on around him but still follows Keltin for all the action.

It gives us enough distance to see Keltin as he is and not as he believes himself to be. Because he’s much more of a leader and a hero than he’d ever give himself credit for. From that slight bit of distance, we can observe his doubts and fears without getting as caught up in them as he does. And it allows him to keep some secrets from us as well.

The interesting thing about this particular entry in the series is the way that it revisits old territory without re-hashing previous events. Except, of course, for Keltin’s own re-hashing of his hesitant romantic correspondence with Elaine Destov, the woman he helps to save from the beasts of Krendaria, even as she saves him in turn.

His emotional uncertainty is endearing, and his willing to deal with his own doubts and fears is every bit as brave as his beast hunting.

I’ll admit that I found the ending of Dangerous Territory, with Keltin walking his sister down the aisle at her wedding, to be a bit anticlimactic. That’s partly because I wanted it to be Keltin’s wedding to Elaine, even though they aren’t ready for that yet. It also felt a bit “tacked on” rather than an integral part of the story just finished. But more than that, I think I also wanted to be certain of having a next book to look forward to, and I don’t. There’s plenty more of this world, and Keltin’s place in it, yet to explore!

Review: The Beast Hunter by Lindsay Schopfer

Review: The Beast Hunter by Lindsay SchopferThe Beast Hunter (The Adventures of Keltin Moore, #1) by Lindsay Schopfer
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: adventure, fantasy, steampunk
Series: Keltin Moore #1
Pages: 269
Published by Createspace on May 8, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Beast hunter and local hero Keltin Moore joins a desperate campaign to save faraway Krendaria, a nation on the verge of revolution. A swarm of beasts threatens to destroy the country’s desperately needed crops, and an unprecedented team of hunters is assembled to cleanse the infested farmlands. But the grand adventure quickly becomes a desperate fight for survival as the horde of beasts seems endless and distrust among the hunters eats away at the campaign from within. In desperation, Keltin and his new friends embark on a dangerous mission into the heart of the deadly swarm, prepared to make a final stand against the oncoming beasts to try and save all of Krendaria from starvation.

My Review:

I read the second book in the Keltin Moore series, Into the North, a few months ago, and really, really enjoyed it. But it was the second book in the series, and while it did work as a standalone, there were plenty of hints to Keltin’s wider world that I wanted to explore. Hence this review of the first book in the series, which was every bit as fascinating as Into the North.

But this is a different story. And as much as Into the North reminded me of Jack London with its Gold Rush setting, The Beast Hunter does not. Instead, this one feels a bit more like fantasy or steampunk than its successor. At the same time, it feels like it could be a frontier story from our own past – albeit with a few twists and turns.

Keltin lives in a small town in an area that has a kind of frontier feeling to it. Transportation is either horse or mule or “shank’s mare” – meaning one’s own two feet. There are trains, but the town Keltin lives in is too small to have a station. And he does need to reach one.

His job is to hunt fairly fantastic beasts that are causing problems for local farmers or townsfolk, and he makes a halfway decent living at it. He’s also developed a reputation for it that has grown beyond his native Riltvin.

The story here is that his reputation has made the wider world come calling for him. There’s a huge beast infestation in far away Krendaria, and the government is looking to hire beast hunters from all over the world – for a fantastic bounty, of course – to help them contain it.

Also, unbeknownst to Keltin as he starts on his journey, to try to give the people of Krendaria a reason NOT to rebel. It’s hoped that the beasts can be beaten back before the harvest season so that farmers can go back to their farms and food can be brought in for the starving masses who are rebelling.

Some things are more possible than others.

No matter how many hunters are brought in, the supply of beasts seems endless. The patience of the rebels is much less so. But along the way, Keltin learns lessons about himself that are still taking shape in the second book.

The lone wolf hunter learns that loneliness is easy, leadership is hard, and that survival isn’t of the fittest, but of the one who learns to accept a little help from his friends, and to be one. And that two hearts might just possibly be better than one.

Escape Rating A: It’s neat to have read these in the wrong order. I enjoyed Into the North a lot, it was a terrific adventure and completely different from other things I was reading at the time and I just really liked it. It was the right book at the right time. But I was teased by the background of Keltin’s world and Keltin’s life before the point where that story begins – and now I have at least some of that backstory.

The story of The Beast Hunter is the adventure that Keltin has just returned from in Into the North – the Gold Rush location where that story takes place, is definitely to the north of Keltin’s native Riltvin.

But those names are also hints that this series does not take place on any obvious variation of the world we know. At the same time, we don’t actually know. We’re dropped into the middle of both Keltin’s life and his world. The political situation seems to be totally FUBAR, and the wildlife that Keltin hunts as a beast hunter is a whole lot wilder than anything currently or historically seen on our Earth.

So wherever and whenever Keltin’s story takes place, it isn’t here, it isn’t now, and it isn’t any then that we know of.

It does feel like Keltin’s story sits on a tricornered space between an adventure story, fantasy, and steampunk. It also feels like it would be a great book to give to someone who likes adventure stories and is curious about either of the other two genres but doesn’t want to get deep into their weeds on their first outing.

The names and histories of places like Krendaria and Malpinon hint of a wider world with a deeper history, and possibly portend a deeper dive into epic fantasy in a later story. Keltin’s world feels epic in scope, but not in the way that epic fantasy usually does. Keltin is living his life, and we see and hear what he does. His world may be big, but it maintains a human perspective, just as we live in a wider world than the parts that we experience on a daily basis. There’s no big conflict of good vs. evil. Keltin is just trying to do the best he can against certain small or medium-sized – and fairly monstrous monster-type – evils.

At the same time, both the non-humans that Keltin befriends and the beasts that he hunts clearly hint at a world not our own. But the magic that appears in the story is confined to those entities, at least so far. Humans seem to rely on tools and weapons that we’re familiar with, and in that the series feels like steampunk.

But it’s the adventure that carries the story. Keltin has come to help kill fantastic and horrible beasts that seem intent on wiping out not just the human population, but anything they can eat including each other. Keltin becomes the leader of a small band within the hunters, and does his best even as he is sure he isn’t doing a good job. His perspective, and his world, are all about surviving the next incursion and keeping himself and his men alive to fight another day.

At every stage it seems as if the entire enterprise is on the verge of collapse or extermination – whether by the rampaging beasts or by internal strife. The reader spends the entire story on the edge of their seat, wondering who will live, who will die, and whether Keltin will emerge from this whole mess with more damage than can ever be healed.

It’s a wild ride of an adventure every step of the way! So much so that I’m looking forward to reading the tale of Keltin’s third adventure, Dangerous Territory, the next time I need to escape from the everyday!