Hunted by Meagan Spooner {book review}

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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?

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“If you’re reading this book, then you’re also that child reading by flashlight and dreaming of other worlds. Don’t be scared of her, that inner Beauty, or her dreams. Let her out. She’s you, and she’s me, and she’s magic.”

Beauty and the Beast managed to capture my heart once again in this touching, lyrical novel about family, friendship and whether it’s worth following your heart’s greatest desire in a world where duty and fate are at odds. Hunted is a beautiful re-imagining of a timeless tale we know so well, but it’s also something new and fresh with a lot of unique elements that make it stand on its own and that made my heart burst with nostalgia and happiness at the same time.

It is no secret that I love Beauty and the Beast retellings. Consequently, I’ve read my fair share of books based on this particular fairytale, but honestly, there wasn’t a single one that felt as true as Hunted.

The first memory Yeva has of her life is of her father reading her fairytales. The second is still at her father’s side, roaming the forest she knows by heart. The hunt is in her blood, rooted in her heart and in her cherished memories. As it is, she can’t help but feel happy when an unfortunate event financially cripples her family and they are forced to move to her father’s old hunting cabin on the outskirts of her small town. However, her newfound relief at being back in the place she loves most is shortly lived. Her father becomes obsessed with a beast out of the stories that sweeten her childhood, but in which she stopped believing a while ago and it’s not long until he went missing.

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On her journey to bring her father back home, we discover Yeva in a new light. She is a fierce fighter, not only physically, but mentally too. I love how she never gives up on the people she loves and how she does everything in her power to protect them, but I also like how this strong love she has for her family never eclipses her self-love. It’s great seeing characters go to great lengths for other people, but what is even better than that is seeing characters thinking of others and of themselves at the same time. Yeva is the perfect example of a balanced character, both selfless and selfish, strong, but also vulnerable in her own way. Among the things I like about our protagonist is also her love for books because, come on, what book lover doesn’t enjoy seeing characters passionate about reading? This helped me connect with Yeva better because while I can’t relate to most of her struggles and passions, I can certainly relate to her curiosity and her need for knowledge.

There were maybe thirty or forty of them—nothing to how many were in the ruined library—but these had been cared for, protected and preserved against the years. And though they showed wear, cracked spines and corners rubbed such that the dye had faded, it was the kind of wear from use, the wear her own family’s books had shown before they sold them. These books were read, many times. These books were loved.

Beast is just as interesting a character to read about as Yeva. Although quite short, his chapters were very powerful and true to his nature. I love his relationship with Beauty and his developement as the story progresses. He is a good match for Yeva, with his blunt, wild attitude and his unexpected intrusions of sweetness and thoughtfulness.

“She calls you Beast, for that is what you are. And Beauty. The surprise is not the compliment, not the truth, that she is beautiful. The surprise is not that we wish to help her. The surprise is not even the electric warmth that rises at the sound of her voice, even when she is shouting. The surprise is how much I long to hear her call me, just once more, Ivan.”

I enjoyed every second of the time we got to spend with Yeva’s sisters. They are great, realistic characters that add to  the story’s unique take on the original fairytale.

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The writing is what made this story for me. Its tone is very fairytale like and I couldn’t help but be transported to those early days of childhood where fairytales were a constant of my life. The setting of the story is loosely inspired by Slavic culture. Every scene felt like something out of a H.C. Anderson story, compelling and intricate and magical. The world building is top-notch too. I could picture all the fantastic creatures very well in my head and the descriptions were lovely, especially when it came to the Beast’s home.

None of this was what held Yeva’s gaze. Because in the bottom of the valley, straddling the river nestled in the foothills, was a castle.

I think the plot is the weakest part of the book, but I was satisfied by how thing wrapped up nonetheless. I would have liked more time with the characters in the end or a more detailed epilogue, but we don’t always get what we want, right? I guess I’m just like the characters, always looking, hoping for something more.

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This was a good book and I would recommend it to all fantasy and Beauty and the Beast lovers alike, but there was just a spark missing, which is why I ducked a star. A lovely story overall, with great, complex characters that will warm your heart, beautiful prose and action that stays true to the original story with a few unique twists here and there Do I recommend it? Yes, with all my heart. Go read it now!

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★ ★ ★ ★ ½

 

 

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