Author: Meagan Spooner
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld, Will Damron
Running Time: 9 hours, 19 minutes
Goodreads Summary: 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?
Ah, love. The feeling you experience when you read a good book. A good book such as Meagan Spooner’s Hunted! (*wink wink, nudge nudge*) I certainly found many things to love in Hunted, the latest Beauty and the Beast YA retelling on the market. And that’s saying a lot because, in all honesty, a) Beauty and the Beast isn’t my favorite fairytale and b) the market is kinda saturated with YA Beauty and the Beast retellings, in my opinion. Nevertheless, I really, really enjoyed Hunted and sped through it in 2.5 to 3 days!
First off, I loved the characters. They were each unique and distinguishable. Even the secondary characters, like Galina, Solomir, and Yeva’s sisters had depth! I loved that Spooner didn’t just name attributes to the characters, but actually showed those attributes in action. We saw Yeva’s bravery and skill as a huntress and Beast’s dual nature, and Asenka’s compassion and so on.
I’ve gotta talk about my fave, Yeva, the main character! I adored Yeva. She’s a skilled huntress who’s always felt a deep longing for more. It was Yeva’s desire to experience more that I really identified with, because that’s something that I’ve always felt. Yeva was strong and brave, but she was also kind and loving. I was really happy to see that Spooner didn’t fall into the trap of making Yeva the typical Strong Female Lead™–ya know, the one’s who’s sassy and good at everything and beautiful and brave and blah, blah, blah. Yeva was strong, yet also soft. And she was deeply flawed, as we learned in the end. She was human and that made her easy to connect with.
The relationships portrayed were also amazing! I particularly loved Yeva’s relationship with her sisters. The girls were incredibly close and never once did their loyalty to and love for each other waver, even when they could have easily fallen into jealousy and competition. It was so nice to see a positive and close portrayal of family!
And the romance! Swoon! Hunted is the prime example of a slow burn romance done right! I appreciated how it was only after coming to really know each other that Yeva and her love interest really begin to fall for each other. You can see their progression from enemies to wary acquaintances to friends to good friends to feeling something more for each other. The unfolding of the pair’s love was really beautiful and touching to witness.
Another element I enjoyed was the world. Spooner’s world building is clear, yet lyrical and gracefully executed, without getting info dump-y. Hunted is set in an ancient, mythical version of Russia, where fairytales mingle with real life. The magic was just enough, but not overpowering and in this way, Spooner made the magic seem all the more real as it intertwined with the plausible. The snowy, harsh landscape was also a nice setting for the story because it added an extra obstacle to the tale. Everything about the world was so easy to lose yourself in and it really added an extra dimension to the story.
Okay, so while I loved 95% of Hunted, there was that teensy-weensy 5% that I thought could’ve been done better. In particular: the story dragged slightly in the middle and I also felt the story could’ve been a tad more original.
Let’s address the first of my complaints: the middle. There is this section where the story kinda gets stuck in a rut, with Yeva hunting, returning to the castle, rinse, wash, repeat. It gets repetitive and that starts to slow the story a bit. I just wish we’d spent that time doing something more, perhaps exploring Beast’s past or learning more about th world. Spooner resolves the issue eventually, but just barely after I started fading.
Now onto my second issue. While Hunted was quite honestly compulsively readable, it didn’t stray much from the original tale. In fact, it’s almost an exact retelling. It differed in the world and setting, yes, but the plot stuck pretty darn close to the original Beauty and the Beast tale. I just feel like, in this new and magical world, and with the writing talent that Spooner clearly displays, there definitely was room to elaborate and embellish. It just seems to me like Spooner played it safe when it came to plot and I think that she’s talented enough that taking a risk would’ve really paid off.
So all in all, I really enjoyed Hunted. I’d recommend it to fans of Beauty and the Beast and Russian-inspired fantasy such as The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo or The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye. Definitely a great read!