My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publication Date: March 14, 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?”
Once I finished Hunted, I didn’t really know what to think of it. And to some degree, I still don’t. I’m having a hard time deciding whether I liked it or loved it. One thing I do know is that I think this might be one of the better Beauty and the Beast retellings out there right now. The inclusion of Russian fairytales and other fantastical elements gave another dimension to both Beauty and the Beast’s situation, and it also brought a relatively fresh outlook on a tale as old as time.
Yeva (nicknamed Beauty by her father) is a wonderfully written character that is believably human. In fact, she’s already become one of my favorite female protagonists in YA. Not only is she self-sufficient, independent, and physically capable (dangerous, even), she is also kind, caring, and fiercely loyal to both her family and friends. She is a very easy character to connect with and it was enjoyable watching her grow as an individual. The Beast was also an intriguing character. His POV was limited to short, diary-like entries that carried great insight into his plight and further helped me to sympathize with him as a tormented character.
Yeva and Beast’s relationship was an interesting thing to experience as it was rife with tension and guilt, yet carried on through the mutual experience of being prisoner to outside forces and to one’s own self. It was intriguing to watch the bond shift from hate to something more. The time Yeva spends in the Beast’s company seemed a bit stagnant and repetitive in some places, but even during this, their relationship was transforming with each passing moment, a slow-burn wrapped up in subtlety.
Though the story was slow, it was not necessarily boring, at least, not all the time. The author took her time to set up her characters and to introduce her audience to Yeva and her ties to family. For me, the family dynamics were the strongest part of the book, especially between Yeva and her older sister Asenka. The author avoids petty drama between the two sisters and instead creates a powerful bond between the two that is founded on trust, loyalty, and kindness. They are very loving and supportive of one another, and it was refreshing to see such closeness between two female characters.
Yeva’s father seemed to be a good man, but his continued absences made it a bit hard to connect with him and so it was even harder to sympathize with Yeva when it is revealed what has happened to her father following his disappearance. Or maybe I’m just made of stone…Also, the Beast’s transformation towards the end was kind of lackluster. But for me, I didn’t see the transformation as the endgame. This book isn’t so much about “beauty lies on the inside” and is more a story of self-discovery. The ending was much more quiet and introspective (maybe even existential) than expected.
All in all, the magical aspect, themes, and complex characters bring this tale alive and lift it up to be more than just a run of the mill Beauty and the Beast retelling.