The Great Hunt – Wendy Higgins – HarperTeen – Published 8 March 2016
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.
An engaging fantasy, with swoon-worthy romance, a diverse cast of characters and plenty of action. Now I am eagerly awaiting book two in this exciting duology.
The kingdom of Lochlanach is plagued by a great beast that hunts at night, killing and maiming any who get in its way. Desperate to end the terror, the king of Lochlanach decrees than any man who can kill the beast will earn the hand of his eldest daughter, Princess Aerity. For Aerity, the hunt for the beast offers freedom for her kingdom but an end to her future of marrying for love. The hunt brings a huge number of men to the castle door, eager to kill the beast and win her hand. And then there is Paxton Seabolt, a Lochlanach commoner who seems determined to avoid Aerity and has no qualms about displaying his dislike for her and the royal family. Aerity cannot deny how drawn she is to the irritating (and yet very handsome) Paxton, yet knows she must marry whichever man slays the beast.
With a great beast, a competition to win the princess’ hand, archery, and a parcel of rambunctious red-haired royal children, is anyone else thinking… Brave. (Although Princess Aerity is said to have strawberry blonde hair instead of red like the rest of her family.)
This fairytale retelling is set in a complex and detailed fantasy world. At first I couldn’t lose myself in this book, perhaps as the writing seemed a little stilted or because everything was so dramatic (one minute spirits are soaring and the next they plummet) but by 60 pages in I couldn’t put the book down. The Great Hunt offers a captivating mix of action and romance. There is something about fated love stories and dangerous quests that makes books so very enjoyable.
Despite there being so many characters, I had no trouble keeping them sorted in my mind (the royal family tree helped when first getting to know them all). Princess Vixie is particularly amusing and Princess Aerity seems a strong character, despite not having much of an active part in the hunting of the beast. Aerity is quite content at first to let the men hunt the beast, while accepting her role as princess and future wife, despite her wish that it could be otherwise. Readers who like a strong and independent heroine will be pleased, I think, with the way Aerity plays to her strengths and develops the courage to stand up to her challenges as the book progresses. No, she doesn’t take off alone in the dead of night to kill the beast herself, but she is no snivelling maiden in distress either. I think book two will really allow Aerity to spread her wings a little and display some more of the depth and strength she has to offer.
The romance is particularly sparkling in this book. Or perhaps I should say steaming. The heat between the characters is brilliant. I loved how the hottest of moments are shared through nothing more than long glances (and a few pretty intense kisses). Readers are also treated to not one love story but three, or at least the beginnings or hints of three romances. It’s all very complicated, but I can’t wait to see how it all plays out in the next book. I’m hoping that everyone will get their happily ever afters, but I’m thinking it may not be that easy.
Once ensconced in this fantasy world, The Great Hunt is a quick and easy book to devour. Readers will stay for the romance, be captivated by the action and will desperately want book two to see how Aerity plans to secure her future and the safety of her kingdom.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Themes: Romance, magic, hunting, beasts, marriage, royalty.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Violence – descriptions of fights, hunting and killing animals, death, injuries and blood. Vague sexual references. Very infrequent coarse language, s***.
Published: 8 March 2016 by HarperTeen.
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 416 pages.