by Megan Spooner
Published March 14, 2017
Goodreads: See here
YA Fantasy/Retelling of Beauty and the Beast
Plot at a Glance:
Yeva knows the Beast’s forests in her bones. She knows it holds secrets and has longed to discover them ever since she was a child. So when, as a grown woman, Yeva finds her family uprooted from aristocracy and forced to live within the forest, at her father’s hunting cabin, she is secretly relieved. But when her father goes missing on what should have been a routine hunt, Yeva sets her sights on the creature he had been tracking before his disappearance.
Beauty is pitted against Beast in this dark retelling of a classic fairytale. Who makes it to the end is anybody’s guess as legends, and ancient curses seek to drive those who enter the forest into the depths of despair.
^ Actual gif of me reading most of this book. Okay, not really, but it about sums up my feelings.
Retellings are a difficult thing to go into because you never know how they’re going to turn out: how you’re going to feel if the story is too similar so it feels boring to read; or if it diverges too greatly from the source material that you feel it’s done the original an injustice. Neither was the case for me here.
Hunted sets itself apart from the commonly known fairytale with distinctive characters, and few twists on the most recognizable moments from the story. Spooner’s prose took this to the next level for me in many ways. It is magical and lyrical and feels very much in keeping with the spirit of classically told fairytales.
One of the wonderfully macabre things about a lot of classic fairytales that mainstream audiences (who don’t read) are not aware of is the dark tonal quality present in a lot of them. Spooner takes inspiration from that and weaves darkness and light together into a tapestry of memorable moments that stand apart from the original in a lot of ways, but are respectful to it all the same.
The most important aspect of the story is without a doubt, Beauty.
My introduction to Beauty and the Beast was of course the Disney version. I’ve always felt a sort of kinship with Belle, ever since I was a kid. She loves books; she’s a bit socially awkward, and she’s full of hope for her future. So, I was glad to see that Yeva was quite in keeping with that characterization, but I will say that I really enjoyed her added strengths.
This was a Beauty who didn’t need no man for a lot of this story, and that was more than okay. That was great!
Of course, when she inevitably does become involved in the romantic aspects of the story that we all know and love, it’s on her own terms and is entirely her own motivation. I respected the journey that she takes, and Spooner for sending her on it.
Of course, we have to talk about our Beast too:
He might be more bite than bark in this particular retelling, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. His journey is just as important as the one that Yeva takes, and I particularly enjoyed some of the most pivotal moments involving his character, especially in the final act of the book.
Because I have to explain why I’m rating this the way I am, I will say that I wanted to see a bit more of the world! We know this is a Russian folklore inspired retelling, but beyond that and a few creatures from legends being thrown in, I felt like the world outside of the forest and castle that Yeva and the Beast occupied felt quite small. It helped make their dynamic more intimate, for sure, but even the Beast’s background is left in shadows that I had hoped Spooner would illuminate by the end of the story.
This was a fabulous book. It’s a respectful take on the material, and a true homage to classic fairytales. I just loved it. I consider it a new favorite, and Spooner an author I look forward to reading more from in the future.
🌟🌟🌟🌟✯ = 4.5 stars out of 5!
I buddy-read this with my friend Josh over at Highlit Books. Thanks Josh!! 🙂
Tell me you’ve read this?! What did you think of it? What other fairytale retellings do you love? Do you prefer it when the stories diverge greatly, or do you prefer they stay true to the original?