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?
Hunted is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with elements of slavic folklore in the form of the legendary Firebird. Yeva, aka Beauty, is a skilled hunter, and when her father goes missing on one of his hunts, she sets out to find him. She ends up getting captured by the Beast, who imprisons her so that she can fulfill a task he requires of her. Throughout the book, she considers him her enemy, and vows to seek revenge against him. While training for his task, she starts to understand what he is, and what that means for her mission.
Most Beauty and the Beast retellings have a prince disguised as a beast, but he is still gentle and caring underneath. This Beast is sort of different, in that he is both man and beast – though only appearing as the latter. He has the intellect of a human, but the pragmatic and instinctive nature of a Beast, which constantly puzzles her. At first, she is ready to kill him because she thinks he is just a creature, and which she can collect as a trophy. But soon she realizes that there is a slight human presence underneath, in the way he responds and the emotions he expresses. Still, the fact remains that she considers him her enemy and no kindness of his can erase what grief he caused her.
The storyline neatly follows the plot of the original that everyone is familiar with, but here and there you see hints of slavic folklore being sprinkled in. At first, I thought it would be something related to faery tales, but we get Rusalka, and through Yeva’s childhood stories, about Ivan and the Firebird. Still, she doesn’t realize that she herself is part of a fairytale, and when the time comes to break the curse, she uses her knowledge of her stories to do so. The author spins a nice tale between these two different stories of Beauty and the Beast and Firebird, and combines them very well. Also, the hunting parts of the book, the scenes where Yeva is in the forest, were so well-written I could feel like I was there in that forest with her.
The ending was a little vague with respect to the curse, but I loved the twist the author gave to the two original stories. Well, more to the Firebird one, because that was more dominant towards the end. However, that action picks up in the last 15% of the book, and I felt that the middle lagged a little in terms of pace. Overall, however, it is a good retelling and I would recommend it for fantasy fans!
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harper Teen, via Edelweiss.