Hunted – Meagan Spooner – Hunted #1 – HarperTeen – Published 14 March 2017
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?
Beauty and the Beast has always been my favourite fairytale. Perhaps it’s because of the magic, used for more than making a fancy ball gown or carriage. Or maybe I like that it is a redemption story, about a selfish man made good. Maybe it’s because the heroine is strong and resourceful but still kind, or because of its similarity to the tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Whatever the reason, I love the original fairytale and I equally love Beauty and the Beast retellings. Hunted has all of the elements of the original that I love, with a haunting writing style and gorgeous setting. It is more detailed and clever than a simple Disney tale, but it retains that ethereal quality, with a sharp, deadly edge that offsets the beauty.
It’s been years since Yeva hunted in the woods with her father. Her muscles have grown soft and her training lax after her father moved her family to town and determined that Yeva would be best served playing lady to the baronessa, sewing and wearing fine clothes. But a turn in fortune sees Yeva, her two sisters, and her father removed from their home and returning to the little cabin in the woods. Yeva secretly rejoices at her chance to once again roam the woods with her bow and arrows and traps. But a strange madness overtakes her father, who is sure a beast rules the forest, and, after her father disappears, Yeva goes after him and discovers a world that has previously only belonged in the legends she was told as a child.
This story is gently woven, exactly as a fairytale should be. Yeva is no fainting damsel, but she is understanding and kind. She loves her family and wants to protect them, despite being the youngest. I found Hunted to be one of those books that you are desperate to get to the end so you know how it ends but when you near the last pages you want it to go on forever.
The East European names and folklore, and the snowy, rugged setting are a charming backdrop to the story, but hold a kind of hidden danger in its beauty. Much like Yeva, beautiful but with a dangerous and deadly edge. She is a strong hunter, good with a bow and arrow, she excels at moving through the forest, tracking her prey, and setting snares and traps.
When she is taken prisoner by the Beast, it is her silent and invisible ally to whom she grows attached (but there is no love triangle, hope that’s not too much of a clue…). The Beast, when he captures Yeva, expects her to be rescued and plans to capture her rescuer to use as his hunter, only realising much later that Yeva herself holds the skills he needs to break his curse.
I really loved this book. Loved the mix of fairytales and legends that blend so well together. I loved the romance that, of course, starts off with fear and hatred and anger and slowly learns to see past that to come to a place of understanding and love. I loved the characters, especially Yeva, but also everyone from the Beast to Yeva’s loving sisters. And I loved the ending that perfectly ties everything together but leaves it open enough for the characters to forge their own path. Because while this might be a fairytale it has a life of its own…
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Fairytales, Beauty and the Beast, The Firebird, hunting, magic, romance.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Violence, hunting and preparation of carcasses.
Published: 14 March 2017 by HarperTeen.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. 384 pages.