Please be aware that this review contains some mild spoilers. Do not continue reading unless you are fine with being spoiled.
I’m a sucker for Beauty and the Beast retellings. But I am basically trash for any retellings that turn Beauty into a badass, self-sufficient female rather than a dainty damsel in distress.
I’m also a big fan of Meagan Spooner, who co-authored the Starbound trilogy with Amie Kaufman. So when I heard that Hunted had everything I wanted and a cool plot twist, I was in.
Hunted gets off to a slow start, but I still took it in greedily. While there are some similarities between this story and other versions, they’re fairly fleeting. Beauty’s two sisters, rather than being vain and spoilt as in Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s original, are two of the kindest characters you could ask for.
I find it refreshing that the main character, Yeva, actually enjoys hunting rather than seeing it as a means to an end. Even after living a relatively sheltered life, Yeva doesn’t let her new impoverished circumstances change her nature. Much like her sisters, she’s incredibly kind and lovable.
We may not get the specifics of where Yeva lives, but a lot of Hunted is rooted in Russian folklore, with various mentions of Vasilisa the Beautiful and Ivan Tsarevich throughout. I only had vague knowledge of these stories beforehand, but they’re rich and detailed, and they provide the perfect backdrop for this world.
One of my favourite things about the book is the way the Beast’s point of view is relayed. We only get short bursts of his voice throughout the story, and more often than not it’s in second person. This method is always alienating, but it makes the shifts between second and first person even more pronounced. And we get a glimpse of the Beast’s nature without learning too much about him.
With almost all Beauty and the Beast retellings, there’s the difficulty of dealing with Stockholm Syndrome. At the very least, Hunted addresses the matter frankly, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to negate the issue.
The ending did feel a bit rushed after such a slow burn, but everything wrapped up satisfactorily, and the writing was beautiful enough to keep me hooked right until the last page. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a Beauty and the Beast retelling or a strong standalone fantasy.