Hunted by Meagan Spooner
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
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?
What I Liked:
I've read Spooner's solo books (her debut trilogy), and her co-written books with Amie Kaufman. Her Skylark trilogy was so-so for me, but I loved the Starbound trilogy. When I saw that she would be publishing a new fantasy series, I was definitely intrigued and hopeful - maybe I would love this new solo series of hers. I'm so happy to say that I really enjoyed this new book of hers!
Yeva and her family have fallen on hard times, and they move far from town to their old cabin, where Yeva's father will hunt in the forest in order to provide for his three daughters, and make some money back to pay debts. Yeva's two older sisters, Lena and Asenka, are not like Yeva and her father. Yeva loves being in the forest, away from town, being able to hunt at will. But something dangerous lurks in the forest - a Beast who Yeva's father feared, right before he went missing. Yeva hunts the Beast, and what she finds isn't quite what she expected. She hates him, but she begins to understand him. How is it that he is just as trapped as she is? Yeva learns that the world she knows is not the only world that exists - and she is caught up in the magic.
Beauty and the Beast retelling, anyone? Perfect timing, given the live-action movie to be premiered soon. Personally, I'll take books over movies any day. This retelling is on its own level! I loved it. I was so curious to see how Spooner would handle the fairy tale, especially with all of the controversial aspects of Beauty and the Beast (Stockholm Syndrome, for one).
Yeva is a not an angelic, naive heroine, nor is she a fierce, kickbutt type of heroine. She is sweet and selfless, but also tough and very independent. She likes to hunt in the forest, and enjoys the solitude. She cares for her two older sisters and her father, so much so that she makes different sacrifices when the opportunities present themselves, in order to help her family. When Yeva ends up in the Beast's castle, she is angry but unafraid. I really, really liked Yeva. Arguably, she is one of my favorite Spooner heroines (I liked the ladies in the Starbound trilogy though). She is so selfless, when it comes to her sisters and father, and eventually, the Beast.
The Beast... we all know the story of Beauty and the Beast, so I couldn't help but feel pity and remorse for him, from the start. But in the beginning, the author makes readers feel a little angry with him. He is not kind or patient with Yeva, and he seems more animal than human in the beginning. But his humanity comes about more and more, the longer Yeva is with him. The Beast is a character that I knew I would feel for, and my heart broke for him constantly.
In this book, Yeva actually gets to know the Beast for a bit before she finds out that he is the Beast, if that makes sense. She believed him to be a fellow prisoner at first, and he brought her food and supplies in the dungeon cell. But then all is revealed that he is actually her captor, and she hates him. It's interesting because Yeva gets to know the Beast before she learns that he is her captor, and then she finds out and hates him, and tries to kill him several times. But she quickly figures out that he is cursed, under a wretched spell, and that he seems to be both human and Beast. I liked this setup, in terms of the story. It sort of accounts for why Yeva might fall for him - she knew him as a "good guy" at first. Furthermore, she tries to keep hating him after she finds out that he is her captor, but he is kinder to her, and not a terrible, abusive captor. Still a captor.
The way this story is told, you won't find Stockholm Syndrome here. Yeva recognizes that she probably shouldn't care about her captor, but she also recognizes herself in him (the loneliness, the love of the forest, the desire for more). She talks to a friend about loving a cruel man, but realizes that the Beast is not that type of "cruel man". I think the author handled this aspect of the fairy tale extremely well, and worked around Stockholm Syndrome.
The progression of the relationship is extremely slow, and there is no physical aspect of the romance. In fact, it's hard to call the romance a "romance" because while Yeva does fall for the Beast (and vice versa), it's definitely more of a progression of an emotional connection than a physical one. This is kind of obvious, right? I liked the development of this powerful emotional connection, though it's hard to say in my mind that it's a "romance". It definitely becomes one after the spell is broken.
There is a good deal of magic in this book! Yeva's father used to tell her tales of magical beasts he used to see while hunting in the forest. Now, Yeva begins to see them herself, like the Firebird. Soon it becomes clear that the only way for Yeva to free the Beast from his spell is to seek out magic, and that is what Yeva decides to do, towards the end of the book.
The setting is very Russian-esque, with the snowy scenery, forest, mountains, castles, and the obvious Russian names. I loved the setting and how it added to the magical world-building! Spooner did a beautiful job in crafting this fantasy world.
Overall, I really liked this retelling. Beauty and the Beast retellings can be extremely tricky, given the obvious Stockholm Syndrome problem, and bestiality, but I think Spooner rewrote the classic tale extremely well. There is so much more than two people falling for each other, but I'll let you discover that on your own. This is a great story, friends!
What I Did Not Like:
This is definitely a standalone novel and I absolutely love that it's a standalone novel, but I can't help but want a little more from Yeva (Beauty) and her "Beast", when he becomes human! We only get a few pages of them as a human man and human girl together, and the epilogue is a little on the vague side. Wishful thinking on my part, but I would have loved to get scenes showing the pair together, in the end. Like a more specific epilogue, showing their obvious love and adoration for each other.
But still, I'm really satisfied with this book overall.
Would I Recommend It:
I highly recommend this book if you like fantasy novels, fairy tale retellings, Beauty and the Beast, magical settings, clever heroines, and a romance that isn't a "romance" like you think. Plus, this is a standalone (though I think Spooner is writing more fairy tale retellings, possibly set in the same world but I'm not sure). It's perfect for fans of YA fantasy and fairy tales!
4 stars. I had some expectations for this book, and I'd say Spooner met them. I'm excited to see what other solo projects she has, though I'm also looking forward to reading more co-written books!
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