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There’s Something There That Wasn’t There Before

Meagan Spooner’s Beauty and the Beast retelling, Hunted, incorporates darker themes, but remains true to the heart of the story.

There’s Something There That Wasn’t There Before

BOOK REPORT for Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Cover Story: Turn Arrrrroooooound
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: Tale as Old as Time, Retold
Bonus Factors: Beauty and the Beast, Sisters, Anti-Gaston
Relationship Status: Meant to Be

Cover Story: Turn Arrrrroooooound

At first glance, I really liked this cover. The snow and forest on the hardcover is metallic/shimmery, which makes the young woman pop. The green of her cloak is rich, and makes me want to pet it. But then I took a look a the title, and the silly usage of the bow and arrow near the D. I mean, if you’re going to use it there, why not just replace the D? It’s the same shape. And then there’s the tagline. It stands out in its plainness, even while it’s easy to overlook, and is maybe unnecessary?

I’ve obviously got my nitpicky pants on today.

The Deal:

Yeva, nicknamed Beauty, is the youngest daughter of a man who used to be the greatest hunter their town had ever seen. When he met Yeva’s mother, however, he traded that life in for the security of being a merchant—but he did teach Yeva a thing or two about the trade before she grew too old for such non-feminine exploits. Yeva chafes at the idea that she has to be cooped up inside, working on needlepoint projects and engaging in idle chatter.

When a bad business decision forces Yeva and her family into downsize and move back into her father’s old hunting cabin, Yeva’s actually pleased; she can once again spend most of her time in the woods, helping provide for everyone. (Her father told her that she couldn’t hunt with him, not that she couldn’t hunt at all.) But then her father returns from a long time away, raving about a creature that’s been tracking him. He disappears again soon after, and Yeva, fearing for his life, has no other choice but to follow him and take her chances with the Beast.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yeva is headstrong, dedicated to her family, and willing to put her own self on the line if it means making life better for her father and sisters. She’s way more outdoorsy than I am, but I totally get her need to not feel cooped up and forced to pretend to be something she’s not. She’s also a lover of stories and books, which always bumps potential friends up a notch or two in my eyes.

Additionally, I would be useless at hunting, and would definitely need someone like her on my side were I to live in such non-modern conditions.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Hunted is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. They story differs from the animated classic (and the new, live-action version), but the basic tale is the same. So I don’t think I’m really spoiling much when I tell you that there’s some swoon involved between Yeva and the Beast. Thankfully, Meagan Spooner has more time to flesh out the relationship between the two, which makes the situation a tad more believable, at least from a “realistic, sane person” perspective.

Talky Talk: Tale as Old as Time, Retold

In her author’s note, Spooner talks about how Hunted is the book she’s always wanted to write, and that Beauty and the Beast has always been a favorite story, in its many incarnations. I totally get where she’s coming from, at least the latter part; Beauty and the Beast is my personal favorite Disney animated film, and I’ve read and/or watched many a retelling. It’s obvious that Spooner worked hard to pay homage to the familiar plot while crafting a world and a story that stands firmly on its own two feet. She even touches on the complaints many people have about the “original,” not shying away from Yeva’s confusion about her feelings for the Beast and calling attention to the view that her need to return is a more than a little Stockholm Syndrome-y.

I also really appreciate Spooner’s inclusion of more folklore-like themes, which fit well with the story, turning it from somewhat cutesy fantasy into something a little darker. Her Beast, too, is a much more intriguing character than his predecessors; the specifics of his curse, are unique, and the small snippets Spooner gives readers from his POV go a long way toward making him more well-rounded.

Bonus Factor: Beauty and the Beast

I said as much in Talky Talk above, but I love this story so much. All the retellings, please!

Bonus Factor: Sisters

Although part of what helped me connect most with Belle when I was little was the fact that she was an only child (I am one, if that wasn’t clear), I really like Yeva’s sisters in Hunted. Yeva’s need to protect and provide for them, regardless of the fact that she’s the youngest, adds weight to her actions. And although they might not be able to hunt, both older sisters are strong and admirable in their own right. (Yeva’s father really did right be these girls.)

Bonus Factor: Anti-Gaston

I won’t say much about this character so as to not spoil anything for you, but I really dug the way Spooner brought in a character who could have turned out much like Gaston, but—thankfully—didn’t. The Beast is not the only “good guy” in this version of the tale.

Casting Call:

Emma Watson as Belle as Yeva

Dan Stevens as the Beast as the Beast

Not sorry.

Relationship Status: Meant to Be

I had high hopes for our time together, Book, considering how much your influencing story means to me. Thankfully, I wasn’t at all disappointed. I would curl up with you by a roaring fire again any time. Just keep the growling to a minimum, m'kay?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperTeen, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Hunted is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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