Monday, March 13, 2017

ARC Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Title: Hunted
Author: Meagan Spooner
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 352
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//I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//

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? 

Ever since I heard that Meagan Spooner was writing a retelling of my favorite fairy tale, Hunted has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2017! I loved her Starbound Trilogy and knew I would probably adore anything she wrote. Yes, it was incredibly hyped, but how could a Beauty and the Beast retelling not be amazing?

As it turns out, Hunted is a pretty straightforward Beauty and the Beast retelling with a few embellishments to the characters' stories. Yeva is literally called Beauty and the beast is literally called The Beast. He lives in a castle in an enchanted valley in a forest and Yeva stumbles upon it while looking for her father. She is taken prisoner and slowly realizes that there's more to Beast than she first realized. It's almost cut and paste, which I have absolutely no problem with because I love this story!

Although this book is extremely predictable if you are at all familiar with this fairytale, Meagan Spooner has taken it and tweaked it just enough to keep it interesting. I thought that both Yeva and Beast were incredibly interesting characters! I was invested in them and would honestly have loved a little more backstory to Beast.

Now that I've talked about what I enjoyed, let me jump right into my complaints. Hunted is a book in desperate need of a villain. Not only has the villain been removed from the story, but the urgency has too. Without a time limit on the beast's curse, there's not really anything at stake and the book is incredibly slow as a result. Not even Yeva was in any kind of hurry to break the spell and I was bored to tears. It took me WEEKS to get through Hunted, which is incredibly abnormal. The writing also becomes more flowery as the end approaches, making it even more difficult to slog through an already boring story.

The world building was also severely lacking. Beast's valley is enchanted, can only be found if he wants you to find it, and there's a castle at the center. Yeva lives in a village and then in a cabin in the woods. That is the extent of the world building. Someone just informed me that this book was set in Russia and I had absolutely no idea! After the incredible world building in the Starbound Trilogy, I expected way more.

My final huge problem with Hunted is how it takes the tale of Beauty and the Beast and makes it even more creepy than it already was. Sure, we all know that there's a little Stockholm Syndrome happening here and yeah, it's kind of weird for a woman to fall in love with a beast, but it is still a classic and many people find it terribly romantic. In Hunted, Meagan Spooner has likened the relationship to a physically abusive one and it made me feel really skeevy about enjoying the romance. Here's an example taken directly from the text:

Yeva listened in silence, her own thoughts troubled. She'd known other women who'd formed attachments to men who were cruel to them, though she'd never known any in such dire situations. She'd always thought them foolish, weak, lacking in the self-assurance to know they were better than the men whose backhanded compliments made them flush so. But perhaps they were simply in love. Perhaps their hearts had betrayed them, and not their courage.

- ARC pg. 289. 
This conversation goes on between Yeva's friend who is voicing her concerns about Yeva's time with the beast, and Yeva who tries to justify his treatment of her with internal dialogue like that quoted above. I mean... I don't know. I'll just let you judge that for yourself.

Hunted had the potential to be incredible - just look at the source material - but it fell way short for me. With the removal of all urgency the story dragged on forever and the romance creeped me out. I also found the ending to be pretty anti-climactic. The only thing I liked about this book was the characters and the parts that were pasted directly from the original. Sadly, this just wasn't for me.