Title: The Great Hunt
Author: Wendy Higgins
Series: Eurona Duology
Published: March 8th, 2016
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5 out of 5)The summary of The Great Hunt from Goodreads:
Kill the beast. Win the girl.
A strange beast stirs fear in the kingdom of Lochlanach, terrorizing towns with its brutality and hunger. In an act of desperation, a proclamation is sent to all of Eurona—kill the creature and win the ultimate prize: the daughter of King Lochson’s hand in marriage.
Princess Aerity understands her duty to the kingdom though it pains her to imagine marrying a stranger. It would be foolish to set her sights on any particular man in the great hunt, but when a brooding local hunter, Paxton Seabolt, catches her attention, there’s no denying the unspoken lure between them…or his mysterious resentment.
Paxton is not keen on marriage. Nor does he care much for spoiled royals and their arcane laws. He’s determined to keep his focus on the task at hand—ridding the kingdom of the beast and protecting his family—yet Princess Aerity continues to challenge his notions with her unpredictability and charm. But as past secrets collide with present desires, dire choices threaten everything Paxton holds dear.
Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ tale, “The Singing Bone,” New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins delivers a dark fantasy filled with rugged hunters, romantic tension, outlawed magic, and a princess willing to risk all to save her people.
I struggled with Higgins’s “The Sweet Trilogy.” I just couldn’t get into it. That made me a little hesitant to start The Great Hunt because I wanted to enjoy it. Thankfully, all of my concerns were pushed aside and I devoured this book. It’s absolutely fantastic.
I’ve said quite often that I grew up on fairy tales. The first ones I enjoyed were the lighthearted Disney movies. When I started wanting something more than perfectly happy stories, I turned to the Grimm Brothers. I read “The Singing Bone” a few years ago after a discussion a nurse and I had one afternoon.
I’ll be honest. I was worried, given how “The Singing Bone” ends that I was setting myself up for some pain. The Grimm Brothers aren’t exactly known for joy and happiness. And “The Singing Bone” is no different. It has two brothers, a killing beast, and the princess’s hand in marriage. But there’s a twist that makes it dark.
Princess Aerity always thought she’d be allowed to marry for love, but she understands that being royalty means sacrificing yourself for your people. She understands when her father offers her hand in marriage to the one person who can slay the beast killing men in the kingdom and bringing in terror unlike they have ever seen. That doesn’t stop her from making the best out of a bad situation and having a favorite in the competition.
Paxton cares little for marriage. He just wants to kill the beast and find a way to help his family. He wants nothing to do with royalty, except collecting a reward that will make life easier for his parents and brother. If marrying the princess brings that reward, it is a sacrifice he’ll make. He doesn’t expect to find companionship with the other hunters and to find himself drawn to the princess.
These characters are fantastic. Princess Aerity is selfless, but it’s not without pain. She’s admirable in that she understands her needs and wishes do not come before those of her people, but I loved that we got to see her struggle with that. She’s not perfectly selfless. She’s selfish, but understands that will only led to the ruin of her people. By pushing away her selfishness, she shows that she will eventually be a great ruler.
Paxton is also pretty selfless. He doesn’t want the praise and accolades that come with slaying the beast, and he doesn’t want power from marrying the princess. He just wants to make life easier for his family, no matter the cost to himself.
I also loved the focus on the family. This book isn’t a case of missing parents. Paxton’s aren’t as involved as Princess Aerity’s, but that’s because their sons are hunting the beast. Regardless, it’s clear how much Paxton loves them. And Princess Aerity’s entire family is close. My family is very much the same way and I loved reading that kind of familial relationship.
The story itself is wonderful. I was really interested in how Higgins would take “The Singing Bone” and turn it into a full-length novel, and she did it amazingly. It still has that dark overtone, but there’s sprinklings of lightness as well.
The last element I enjoyed was the idea of a scapegoat. Many in the kingdom believe the beast was created by the Lashed, a dwindling group of people born with magic. The Lashed are blamed for everything bad that happens to the kingdom. They have become the scapegoats, even when it’s clear a Lashed could have no connection to the unfortunate things that befall people. The book is an excellent look at how people are quick to look for someone to blame, even if there’s no logical reason for that blame. I’m interested in seeing how Higgins copes with certain twists that came in The Great Hunt and how the idea of a scapegoat evolves.
The one part of the book I didn’t enjoy was a small scene in which domestic violence becomes the punchline of a joke. I didn’t feel like it added anything to the story or the characters and the effect could have been achieved with a less violent subject matter.
Small scene aside, I loved this book. It’s a well thought out world with high stakes and interesting characters. It definitely deviates from “The Singing Bone,” so it’s not necessary to know that story before reading. I think it’s certainly a book to read and a series to watch.
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Thank you to Edelwiess and HarperTeen for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.