Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. After all, her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering its secrets. So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters out of their comfortable home among the aristocracy and 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. The Beast.
Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange creature back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of magical 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?
Spooner hooked a lot of people (including me) on the dedications page.
To the girl
who reads by flashlight
who sees dragons in the clouds
who feels most alive in worlds that never were
who knows magic is real
This is for you.
Actually, to be fair, I was probably hooked before I ever saw the book. I heard about it at a Malaprops event months before it released. Since I’m a sucker for Beauty and the Beast retellings, I knew I had to have it.
I’ve become increasingly aware of the elements in a book. What notes do authors hit? Which tropes are they drawing from? What are they inspired by? Hunted is an expertly woven mix of grit, magic, and poetry, all grounded in Russian lore and the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. Individually, those elements wouldn’t hold a story together. But together, they create an exquisite experience.
But I know what happens!
If you’ve read my blog for any time at all, you know that I like to know as little about a book as possible before reading. Since I assume you want the same, my reviews are infuriatingly vague. So you might be thinking, “Lyse, why would you want to read a book when you know the story already?”
And that is the core problem with retellings, right? You already know what happens, so isn’t retelling a fairytale just about changing names and settings?
In short, no.
Fairytales, really, are just sketches of stories. They offer simplistic plots and characters, but very little character detail or development.
In a retelling, I know the basic beats a writer might hit. Three sisters, check. Father, check. Father loses money and property, check. Beauty imprisoned by Beast, check.
But those plot points don’t tell me anything about the characters. What motivates them? How do they feel about what’s happening? How do they act to change the situation?
This is what a retelling brings to a fairytale. In rewriting Beauty and the Beast, Spooner has created an entirely new Beauty and new Beast. She’s elevated the story with poetry and themes and magic of her own. And she’s imbued the plot with Russian folklore and her own love of magic.
Beauty or Beast?
I’ve read, by my estimate, somewhere between 8 and 10 Beauty and the Beast tellings. Each telling has a strength of its own, but I can say, without a doubt, that Hunted is my current favorite. I hold a special place in my heart for both of Robin McKinley’s Beauty iterations, but Hunted is personal. It will be tough to beat the level of thought this story requires. Strongly recommended.
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