I am a big fan of fairy-tale retellings and Hunted definitely doesn’t disappoint. Beauty and the Beast with a Russian folklore twist, Meagan Spooner has created a fantastic world where the Beauty might just be more dangerous than the Beast.
This review may contain mild spoilers for this book (What I consider spoilers might not be what you consider spoilers but I thought that I’d put it out there just in case). READERS YE BE WARNED!
To be honest I wasn’t planning on reading this book ever but when some of the lovelies I know on Bookstagram decided to do a read along I decided that I had to join in (you can find all our pictures on Instagram under #aussiesreadhunted). And, oh boy, I am so glad I did! This book was phenomenal right from the start and wasted absolutely no time in jumping into the action.
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?
In a way the plot in this book is kind of similar to that of Wintersong by S Jae-Jones. There is a lot of internal ruminating interspersed by some trippy (and sometimes bloody) action scenes. I’m definitely a big fan of this type of character vs. self conflict where the character struggles with their beliefs and purpose in life as it’s a very nice way to include major character development in a standalone novel.
In my opinion, and quite a few others would agree I’d imagine, a book is only ever as good as the villain but this book doesn’t really have a “bad guy”. I suppose this is to be expected as this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling and in every single one I’ve come across the “Beast” character is in some way redeemable and has an interesting backstory which motivates him throughout the book. Hunted is no different, but incorporates elements of Russian folklore style stories to lend an even more magical feel to the classic Beauty and the Beast story.
Character Appreciation/Disdain (Sometimes a rant but what can you do?)
Yeva: Our darling, not so gentle, Beauty who knows how to kill things. The girl is motivated I’ll give her that! There is a definite rebellious vibe going on with her and she doesn’t lack in confidence or fortitude. This is nice to see in a story set in a world/time where women are usually designated to gossiping, keeping house, and having babies.
Beast: Oh my precious, complicated Beast. Hunted really does lend a whole new set of circumstances to his predicament. To be honest, I almost like his backstory in this book better than the one from the original tale.
Asenka: The next eldest sister of our Beauty reminds me of Elain from Sarah J. Maas’ ACOTAR series, quiet and sweet and beloved by everyone, except Asenka seems to be hell bent on some form of self-sacrifice and is content to be miserable. I liked her, I truly did, but I couldn’t help but think that she should take a page out of her sister’s book and grow a backbone.
Solmir: Again, I definitely liked him, but as I found with quite a few of the characters in this book (the ones that weren’t our Beauty and her Beast), he takes being noble and loyal to a whole new level and is content to be miserable because of it.
I was really pleased to find out that this book wasn’t going to flip between points of view, with standalones I just think that it’s unnecessary. However, in order to still explore how the beast is feeling, and to see things from his point of view, the chapters are interspersed by little, diary style excerpts which I think is super cool and groovy (as well as being extremely effective).
All in all, this was a beautiful, magical, and enchanting novel which kept me hooked until the very last page (the Author’s Note is really sweet too and I do recommend reading it). It definitely deserves the 4 stars (probably even 5, but I compare everything to ACOMAF so… they are some big shoes to fill) and I will absolutely be reading it again, probably before the year is out. If you are a fan of Wintersong or fairy-tale retellings in general, I recommend you give this a go. I promise you won’t be disappointed.