Hunted by Megan Spooner
Genre: Fantasy, fairy tale retelling, YA
I have not read as genuinely delightful of a fairy tale retelling in years. Hunted follows in the hallowed tradition of Robin McKinley and Juliet Marillier, and I was immediately swept into the nostalgia of Spooner’s enchanted world.
Yeva, the youngest daughter of a wealthy merchant, longs for the solitude and magic of the forest, where she is free from the confines of society and can hunt as she pleases. When her father falls into financial ruin and then madness, disappearing into the forest in search of a mysterious “cunning beast,” Yeva has no choice but to follow him. When she finds a beast of nightmares looming over her father’s body in the snow, she swears vengeance on the creature who killed her father and that has now taken her captive to complete some mysterious test.
There are so many Beauty and the Beast retellings littering the shelves that it can be difficult to discover something unique, especially with the recent release of Disney’s live action retelling. While Hunted was not something completely new, it was the nostalgia of the story that captured me. There were few hints of modernity, which many recent fairy tale retellings have fallen into with the cadence of dialogue or style of writing, but Hunted retained as sense of spoken word stories, of fairytales as they were for centuries. Though I knew the story in theory, there were aspects of the Beast’s dual nature and the task he needs Yeva to complete that kept me engaged and questioning.
I enjoyed the addition of Yeva’s drive for revenge, but that she found just as much emptiness in vengeance as she had in many of the other aspects of her life. I also related to Yeva’s longing for that which is beyond this world–what the Germans term sehnsucht or fernweh–for magic and mystery and a life of adventure. That is why I am so drawn to fairy tales. I enjoyed Yeva’s own journey of discovery as she tried to find something to fulfill that longing.
I also found her relationship with the Beast to be refreshing and compelling in a way that most YA romance is not. I could understand why they were drawn to each other. They both have the same unfulfilled longing for magic and life–they are kindred spirits, as Anne Shirley would say. Though Solmir and Asenka and Lena were minor characters, they were important in Yeva’s life and Spooner did an excellent job making sure we cared for them. I was just as concerned with the happiness of Solmir and Asenka as I was with Yeva and the Beast.
The only negative thing I have to say about Hunted is that I found the ending to be rather rushed. I felt like there should have been more to the story, more reward of Yeva and the Beast’s tale. The ending was difficult to understand as well as some of Yeva’s conclusions, so I felt a little gypped of what could have been a more compelling love story.
Overall, I highly enjoyed Hunted in a way I haven’t since Robin McKinley’s Beauty and Juliet Marillier’s Daught of the Forest. I wasn’t expecting to like this book so much since I haven’t been excited by any of the recent highly anticipated fairy tale releases, so I was genuinely, but pleasantly, surprised.