Published by HarperTeen on March 14th 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?
The snow is a canvas, her father would say, upon which the beast paints his past, his home, his intentions, his future. Learn to see the picture and you will know him as you know yourself.
This is the Beauty & the Beast retelling everyone has been waiting for. I tried dozens of Beauty & the Beast retellings. Okay, maybe not dozens, but enough to know it’s one of those fairytales (like Alice in Wonderland which, by the way, I still haven’t found a good enough retelling of) that is hard to get just right.
I have never had the pleasure to read anything by Meagan Spooner, but that is definitely going to change if Hunted is anything to go by. She’s a fantastic author, capable of weaving magic and reality seamlessly, and capable of making even the most strong-willed people fall head over heels in love with folklore.
My reactions whilst reading Hunted were visceral. I felt the cold in my bones; the ice seeping into invisible boots and chilling my toes. I felt the dampness of the cell at my back, the hairs standing on end at the back of my neck as the Beast stalked his prey through the woods. I felt the magic, I heard the animals as they fled. It was an experience like no other, and it was impossible to put the book down long enough to even grab a glass of water.
Hunted follows Yeva, youngest child out of three, the apple of her father’s eye, as she goes from lady in waiting to the sole caregiver of her family. When her father loses their fortune, and the family has to pack up and move to his old hunting cabin in the woods, Yeva isn’t worried. She knew they’d be okay. It isn’t until her father’s hunting trips become longer and longer, less staggered, and he brings home less game, that Yeva begins to worry. She knows he’s no longer hunting for survival — he’s hunting the mythical Beast, convinced that if he brings home the Beast’s head, their fortune will fall into their lap.
The hunt drives him to madness.
He stopped, looking up from his pack to meet her gaze, though he seemed to be saying through her at a distant memory. “It is a Beast,” he said. “A monster unlike anything in any story. It was there twenty years ago. When your mother ask me to give up hunting, it was the one thing I had not, could not catch. And it is there still. When I kill it, it’s head will bring such a price that we will be able to return home.”
Yea heard one of her sisters, she could not tell which, stifle a gasp behind her. There was madness in her father’s face
And so, one day, Yeva decides to follow her father into the woods. There, she meets the Beast in all his horrifying glory, and in order to survive, Yeva strikes a bargain. The Beast needs her (for what, she doesn’t know), and Yeva promises the Beast a story in exchange for comfort and, secretly, she begins to hatch a plan: murder the beast, escape the fortress, and bring home his head.
Hunted is a fairytale in its own right. Spooner knew exactly what she was doing (which is a comfort when it comes to retellings) and managed to create something wholly original whilst also managing to stick to the original tale.
I’ve read Beauty & the Beast retellings before. I enjoyed A Court of Thorns & Roses, I put Cruel Beauty on hold and never finished Uprooted. They were all good, but they weren’t enough. Although I adore Maas’ ACOTAR series, I wouldn’t recommend it as a B&B retelling. From now on, if anyone ever asks me, I’ll always recommend Hunted.
Slow burn romance, legends and myths, storytelling and a family relationship that I’ve been, personally, dying to read about (there is no competition between the sisters: they all love each other, and they will do absolutely anything for their father, and in the name of family), Hunted is the retelling I’ve been waiting for.
I cried, I laughed, I felt. I felt so much that it’s a wonder my heart beats at all any more.