Published by HarperTeen on March 14th 2017
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult, Romance
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Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.
So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.
Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?
A girl dissatisfied with her life in a provincial town; a mysterious being stuck in a hidden castle; a merchant who has lost everything; a hunter wielding a battleaxe to save her father.
One of these is not like the other.
Meagan Spooner takes the timeless tale of Beauty of the Beast and weaves a fantastical tale where the hunter can become the hunted, and things are not what they seem. She adds the Russian legend of the Firebird, adding a bit of spice to the original story and giving it a little bit of her own twist. I really adored this story, and not just because it’s based off of one of my favorite fairy tales. Spooner’s luscious writing creates a new world in medieval Russia where three sisters try their best to survive after a series of unfortunate circumstances. The youngest of them all, Yeva, has a different mindset than her sisters on how to survive.
She hated the indecisiveness of people in town, how they waited to make decisions, took weeks or months or years to settle, until the decisions were made for them by inaction.
We start the story with Yeva talking to court ladies about frivolous things, longing for a taste of nature and what the wildlife has to offer. She’s become stifled in her home within society where her father has moved to. Yeva dreams of picking up her bow and arrow and going back to the hunting that she used to do when she was young. Instead, she’s stuck with gossip and dresses. This all changes soon, though, as her father loses everything he’s invested in and Yeva and her sisters return back to their cottage in the woods to recuperate. The beginning is rather similar to the original Beauty and the Beast story, but it soon veers off a bit.
I love the fact that Yeva’s sisters were so selfless and sweet. They were willing to sacrifice whatever they could to make sure their family could survive and overall their characters were written with grace and loveliness. They were loyal to a fault, and put family above everything else. Yeva’s father also cares extremely for his daughters, and to top this family off are their two hunting dogs, Doe-Eyes and Pelei. Each character was well-written and really came alive from the pages, no matter how short their page time. We also get to read about Yeva’s potential suitor Solmir (Gaston he was not), who was also a nice addition to the story.
But at the very heart of the story was when Beauty (which is Yeva’s actual name) met the Beast. Yeva’s father leaves to chase after this Beast, which was driving him crazy in its continuous escape from him. Thus, Yeva decides to take things in her own hands, grabs her weapons, and heads out in the woods to find her father. Yeva is smart, resourceful, and extremely sharp-witted. She knows what she’s doing, but she has to fight for it. At first Yeva is physically weak but she slowly strengthens as she gradually hunts more. Her character progression was really great, and I love how the author doesn’t sugar coat all the obstacles Yeva has to go through.
Her last thought, strangely rational as their bodies sailed through the air, was: This is no Beast, to lay such a trap for me. This is a hunter.
At first when Yeva meets the Beast, she isn’t treated the best. Readers suffer with her as she slowly succumbs to fever, with the cold from her stone prison seeping into her bones. It’s actually a rather darker and gruesome part of the book. But slowly she begins to learn about her captor and her quick mind starts putting the puzzle pieces together. While this is happening, she also starts getting treated better by the Beast. At first the Beast is hard to understand. Although the book is written in third person limited view of Yeva, the beginning of each chapter has a first person narrative coming from the Beast. So we get to see a bit of his thoughts, but his ulterior motives remain mysterious. When he starts interacting with Yeva more, though, he begins to open up and regain some of his humanity. It’s definitely a gradual process, but the end result and emotions are supremely satisfying.
I wish just once she would look at me without hate.
But wishing is for men. Wanting is what brought us here. Desire and greed are human traits.
We are the Beast.
And yet… I wish.
Ah, dear heart – the romance! It’s so hard to balance the lines of love when you’re interacting with a Beast: an animal that seems so nearly human yet not. Spooner explores these boundaries with great precision through the thoughts of our characters. Yeva’s constantly conflicted, as sometimes she sees traces of humanity as well as humility within the Beast, while other times she sees the Beast as an unknown entity that is something truly to be feared. We learn to empathize with him, as we can obviously see his push-and-pull of his humanity. But in the end, the character growth he goes through while getting to know Yeva was phenomenal.
As the plot progresses in an even pace, the secrets are also revealed. We get to find out how exactly the Firebird fits into the story and what happened to the Beast to make him cursed. Spooner did a great job in incorporating Russian folklore into the tale of Beauty and the Beast. There were no holes and everything fit together perfectly, creating a conclusive and satisfying ending in this new and unforgettable retelling. Her writing further pulls the story along with its picturesque descriptions of the setting. Although there are times in the story where the pace slows down a bit, the entrancing writing is enough to keep a read pulled in.
I really adore fairy-tale retellings and Hunted was one that really met my high expectations and beyond. Spooner’s writing and her mesh of Beauty and the Beast with the Firebird legend provides a great love story with a kickass heroine who’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. Yeva is an awesome main character who’s far from perfect. She’s clearly quick-witted and capable, but her character goes through challenges throughout the story. The character of the Beast is really well-explored as readers grow to learn about him and like him. Readers looking for a well-known story with exciting new aspects and plenty of action will not be disappointed by this book.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thank you HarperCollins and Edelweiss for the review copy!
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