I’ve been trying to read more fantasy these days, particularly fairy tale retellings, so when I heard about Hunted by Meagan Spooner, I was incredibly delighted and knew I had to read it. I haven’t read anything else by the author, so in terms of writing I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was blown away by the beautiful style of writing and the way I was captivated by the story from the very first page.
“We always know before the change comes – but we never know what the change will bring.”
Yeva, often called Beauty by her father, is a young girl girl who has a good life – she has her father and two sisters, and maybe has caught the eye of a boy who she might one day marry. She wants for nothing except the ability to spend time alone in the woods, hunting with her bow and arrow instead of having to learn ladylike ways from the town’s baroness.
When her father loses everything they had trying to make a trade deal, the family is forced to move into the old hunting cabin that belonged to their father – the one that their mother made him give up when they met, because watching him go off into the woods hunting always made her fear the worst.
When they move in, they have to sell all of their belongings and their father must once again take up hunting. Yeva, who longs to go out hunting with him, is not allowed to do so, but decides that until her father returns, she wants to be sure that she can provide plenty for her sisters to eat, so she goes out hunting with her own bow, relishing in the ability to have some time alone in the woods with her thoughts and the snow.
One day, when their father is due to have returned and has not yet, Yeva sets out looking for him, even though she is aware as to what she will find. When she does find him, she also finds the beast – a creature that she has been warned about her entire life, and that everyone in the village had come to fear.
When Yeva attempts to fight the beast, she winds up finding herself failing – and ending up as the beast’s prisoner in a dungeon. She’s completely in the dark, and in pain, but it seems as though the beast is making sure that all her needs are met, and the two of them find themselves talking, with Yeva telling stories and the two of them slowing starting to get to know one another through slow, stunted conversations.
“In every fairy tale there were rules. Even the monsters could not break them. And where, except in fairy tales, did there exist a talking beast?”
Once Yeva learns of her true purpose – she was captured as bait for a hunter who had plenty of skill to come along and help hunt down the being that cursed the beast so long ago, she is reluctant to train, until the beast threatens the lives of Yeva’s sisters unless she complies. Out of fear, she does so, and the beast finds himself incredibly interested in her. Over time, the two of them grow closer, almost to friendship status, even though the main thought at the back of Yeva’s mind is follow through with her plan of revenge and kill the beast for murdering her father.
“Only she frees both of us. She moves like beauty, she whispers to us of wind and forest – and she tells us stories, such stories that we wake in the night, dreaming dreams of a life long past. She reminds us of what we used to be. She whispers to us of what we could be.”
The majority of the story is told in Yeva’s point of view, but at the beginning of almost every chapter is a page or two that is told from the Beast’s point of view. Some of the things the Beast has to say are kind of frightening, while others are more positive and beautiful. The more time Yeva and the Beast spend together, the more time you can see that Yeva is bringing out the best in him.
I’ve noticed that in a lot of fairy tale retellings or fantasy books, there is an insta-love or a romance that makes the main character just melt into a useless love-stricken puddle. That really isn’t the case in Hunted, and I think that’s part of the reason that I loved it so much. Yeva’s character is strong willed and a character that is willing to stand up and fight for what she believes in – she wants revenge for the death of her father, and she is going to let absolutely nothing get in her way of that. If you want a strong heroine, Yeva is probably one of the most badass ones that I’ve come across yet.
This is one of the best Beauty and the Beast retellings that I’ve read yet, honestly. I loved the characters, including the strong family bonds that the sisters held. Yeva’s character is strong willed and she goes after what she wants, while at the same time remaining caring (especially toward her dog).
The one thing that I found myself not enjoying as much as the rest of the book? Definitely the last few chapters. They were kind of confusing, and they felt somewhat rushed – and were a bit strange. I was kind of hoping the book would have been a little bit longer and had a bit more of a satisfying ending, especially since this was a stand-alone (Yes! A stand-alone fantasy! They do exist! Thank you, Meagan Spooner!)
If you’re a fan of fantasy and retellings, you should not miss this one – it’s beautifully written, detailed, and an incredibly fun book. It’s definitely one that I see myself adding to my collection and reading multiple times in the future.