YA Weekend: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: HarperTeen (March 14, 2017)

Length: 384 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I have a bit of a problem. It’s called an addiction to Beauty and the Beast retellings. No matter how often it gets done, or how often I get burned, I just can’t seem to get enough. Call it a personal interest or a guilty pleasure, I just can’t seem to say no.

Hunted is somewhat of a surprising entry into the genre though, in that it combines the traditional “Beauty and the Beast” fairy tale with another one from Russian folklore, “Ivan Tsarevich, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf”. The book follows Yeva (whose nickname is “Beauty”), the youngest of a rich merchant’s three daughters. Due to unfortunate circumstances, the family winds up losing their entire fortune, forcing them all to move back into their old hunting lodge in the woods. Obsessed with paying off his debts, Yeva’s father sinks deeper into madness and despair, raving about capturing a great beast that lives in the forest, convinced that once he is successful they will regain their wealth and prestigious way of life. So when he goes missing one night, it is Yeva who sets out to find him, since among her sisters it is she who possesses the most skill in tracking and hunting.

Sadly for Yeva, what she finds instead is death and ruination in a cursed valley, ruled over by a creature out of myth. Imprisoned by this strange Beast, she is forced to do as he commands, helping him hunt his elusive prey in the forest or risk him bringing harm upon the rest of her family. In time, however, Yeva learns the truth behind why the Beast has kept her close, and begins to realize that he may be as much a prisoner as she is.

Retellings can be tricky, because there’s a fine art to treading that razor thin line between going over familiar ground and offering something new and interesting at the same time. Hunted manages to strike this balance remarkably well, staying true to the essence of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale while still throwing in fresh and unexpected elements. We see much evidence of this approach in the beginning and at the end of the novel which, not surprisingly, I found to be the best parts. The middle section was a bit ho-hum in comparison, because we all know what happens is going to be some variation of the same events leading to our captive falling in love with her captor.

To Meagan Spooner’s credit though, Hunted does not exactly play out like your typical cringe-inducing tale of Stockholm Syndome (the way many bad retellings are handled). For one thing, there’s a lot more to her Beast than simply a man whose good nature is buried deep inside a savage creature’s body, just waiting for the right woman to come along and draw it out. Neither is Yeva a pushover like a lot of the so-called “strong and independent” YA heroines whose resolve crumbles the moment a bad boy deigns to show a hint of kindness (though, there was that facepalm moment in which Yeva stubbornly refuses to thank the Beast for saving her life, yet the gratitude comes gushing out like a waterfall the instant he shows her a few musty old books. Priorities, girl, priorities!) In fact, this is a woman who several times attempts to murder her captor and actually bloodies her hands while doing so, showing more balls than the vast majority of YA protagonists I’ve encountered in a similar situation. While Yeva might be forced to obey the Beast, she does not go quietly about it, and continues to fight his will right up until the later parts of the novel.

Still, considering how the Beast was so terrible to her at the beginning and the way Yeva was so intent on killing him, their eventual romance came rather abruptly and was not very convincing. Their intrinsic faults aside though, both characters were fascinating studies, especially the Beast, whose true self is revealed to us in snippets of his POV. I also liked how the story paid homage to the myths of the Firebird, a common motif in Slavic folklore that often symbolizes a difficult quest. By incorporating the tale of “Ivan Tsarevich, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf”, Hunted warns against being tempted by more when life’s simpler satisfactions may be right in front of your eyes. There’s a good dose of magic here too, which is both the cause and the cure for all the conflict, and in order to break the curse that binds her and the Beast, Yeva must undertake her own “Firebird quest”.

Everything considered, I had a good time with Hunted and thought it was one of the more enjoyable Beauty and the Beast retellings I’ve ever read. While it’s not entirely free of flaws, I liked how the story introduced plenty of clever and inventive elements to the table. All in all a satisfying read.

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29 Comments on “YA Weekend: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

  1. It’s interesting that this retelling chooses to meld two stories into its narrative, which makes me curious about this one, enough to try and overcome my wariness with YA-themed novels. Very intriguing, thanks for sharing! 🙂

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    • When a book does something interesting like that, it always makes me pay attention. I’m glad it decided to tackle the story a little differently, always makes it better than just a straight up retelling, imo 🙂

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  2. You got your fix!! Lol. Hurray! I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed this one, too. I love how Spooner weaved in so many fairy tales to add atmosphere–and, like you said, even successfully combined two of them! And the characters are so great- a proactive and intelligent ya heroine whose sister relationships have a lot of depth.

    Yep, Hunted definitely deserves the attention it got. It’s a little slow, but it’s got so much going for it!

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  3. I’ve seen a lot of reviews of this now but I this one is the most in- depth I’ve seen. Great review! Glad you enjoyed it and it’s nice she was able to incorporate some new elements to freshen it up a bit. I’ve always had a bit of an issue with the love part of this story, so I can see where that would be an issue, but by and large this sounds like a good one.

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    • Yeah, a lot of retellings stumble with the love part. Some overdo the “the right girl/love can “fix” a beast and turn him into a gentleman” message while others fall into the Stockholm syndrome trap. It’s a difficult balance, for sure.

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  4. I really enjoyed this book! I’ve read all of Spooner’s other solo novels, and her co-written series, but I think this one is one of my favorite books of hers. I was really happy about how non-Stockholm-Syndrome-y this story was, and how the author didn’t just write a retelling of Beauty & The Beast. The Russian folklore parts of the story were a great surprise. I hope the author writes more retellings!

    Great review, Mogsy! Have a fantastic week. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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  5. We should form a support group for Beauty and the Beast addicts, because I have the same problem! Yeva sounds like a much more fleshed out protagonist than most “Beauties” and I like the fact that she actually gets her hands dirty. I’m definitely intrigued by the inclusion of the Firebird legend too!

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  6. A friend told me she loved this book and from your review I can understand why! It’s great that the retelling is handled better than others. I might give this a try if I can find it 😀

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  7. Another good review, Mogsy. I might have to let Hunted slide for the time being. It sounds interesting, and I know from past experience that I can trust your reviews… But between the couple winter releases I still have to read and the spring and summer ones I’m already looking forward to, it’s just not a priority for me right now. That, and I’m going through my own struggles with YA fantasy right now, too. :/

    Nice to see that your YA fantasy slump seems to be over, though.

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    • I know what you mean by the spring/summer pile! I STILL need to read Strange the Dreamer! And yes, I guess my YA fantasy slump is kind of over…I did have a disappointing time with Flame in the Mist, but things are picking up again now with Crown of Wishes – I’m loving that one 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • See, I’m struggling a little with ACOW. Don’t get me wrong, I love Roshani Chokshi’s writing… but it feels a bit overdone in this book as opposed to TSTQ. What do you think so far?

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        • I’m listening to the audio, with probably about 20% to go. For me it’s probably on par with The Star-Touched Queen as far as my enjoyment goes, but there are things I like better about it too, like the banter and the faster pacing. It’s probably a 4 star for me at this point 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I did love this – I think it was the writing and the introduction of certain new elements. On the whole I thought many of the elements really did stick to the original storyline but what really captured me was the whole issue of just wanting more.
    We need a B&tB t-shirt or a support group or something!
    Lynn 😀

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  9. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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