Title: The Great Hunt
Author: Wendy Higgins
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy / Retelling
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Kindle Edition: 416 Pages
“Aerity…” Her father paused as if the words he was forming pained him. “I must ask you to sacrifice the promise of love for the sake of our kingdom.”
She could only stare back, frozen.
When a strange beast terrorizes the kingdom of Lochlanach, fear stirs revolt. 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 knows her duty to the kingdom but cannot bear the idea of marrying a stranger…until 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 the marrying type. 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—but the princess continues to surprise him, and the perilous secrets he’s buried begin to surface.
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, and a princess willing to risk all to save her kingdom.
“Now she found herself staring unabashedly from her window at Paxton Seabolt, wishing she had a seaman’s scope so she could peer closer.”
I took an entire page of notes on The Great Hunt. That’s what I do, you see. After I finish a book, I write down all of my praise and complaints in a battered spiral notebook next to my computer. It’s so I don’t forget to mention that one thing that ticked me off, or the quote that made me giddy. An entire page of notes should make for a pretty interesting review, right? Sadly, no. I am sitting here staring at that page and all I can think is, “Wow… this book was dull.”
For starters, The Great Hunt is marketed as a dark fantasy retelling full of sacrifice, tension, and hunky hunters. It delivered the promised “rugged hunters,” but fell short on the rest. This novel is a fluffy romance that occasionally cuts to scenes where the “sexy” heroes battle a dreaded beast, all for the love of Princess Aerity. Don’t be fooled by the beast, most of this book takes place safely on the castle grounds. The scenes that do feature the monster are tame and lack the scare factor I expected. The author failed to inspire any kind of fear in the reader. I wanted to be on the edge of my seat, terrified for the hunters, but I just wasn’t.
So, I accepted that The Great Hunt is a romance novel, which isn’t always a bad thing. I enjoy a cute and fluffy romance from time to time, when it feels real. Unfortunately, the romance between Aerity and Paxton felt forced from moment one. He gives her the once over, leering at her chest long enough to make the people around them uncomfortable, but instead of being offended by his brazen stare, Aerity swoons over his rough and thuggish appearance. It felt like insta-love, at least on her part. Paxton spends the rest of the book trying to ward of her advances “for her own good.” The more he pushes her away, the more she wants him, until he eventually caves and lets her past his bad boy exterior. It really fell flat for me. It could be that I didn’t feel the characters were well developed enough outside of their inexplicable attraction to each other, but I just didn’t find the relationship interesting.
There wasn’t much to this book aside from the unsatisfying romance. The fantasy-lite world does feature a group of magic users, called Lashed, who are strictly forbidden from using their magic on pain of death. That story line interested me, but was overshadowed by the romance. She does drop in a few interesting tidbits in from time to time, but I was still left feeling like they were just a plot device.
In the end, I found the book to be a fast and easy read that feels a bit like the Disney movie “Brave” if you subtracted almost all of the awesome girl power, leaving you with a bear and some guys trying to win a princess.