“Kill the beast. Win the girl.”
If this sort of logic doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I’d recommend not picking up this book.
While I had my own reservations about this book (Exhibit A mentioned above), “The Great Hunt” was not what I was expecting. At all.
This isn’t Wendy Higgins’ first book, but I hesitate to pick something up to compare it to. While “The Great Hunt” isn’t the worst YA fiction released (yet), it sure won’t be on my end-of-the-year lists.
I struggle to really understand why Higgins decided to reimagine the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “The Singing Bone” and make it into a full fledged novel. Sometimes these things work, but in the case of “The Great Hunt,” readers are better off reading the short tale and skipping the novel.
The heart of the book rests in Princess Aerity, who has been auctioned off as a reward for whomever slays the monstrous beast that has attacked Eurona. It’s this core plot point that sets off a dramatic, unpredictable and unsatisfying journey as we meet a hunter, a beast and everything in between.
Princess Aerity is devastated by the thought of marrying a stranger, (she was meant to marry for love!) and soon meets Paxton Seabolt, the mysterious hunter extraordinaire, and by all accounts, cringe worthy. The trope of girl falls for bad boy who doesn’t treat her right instead of actual guy who treats her well has been run into the ground and Higgins seems to be following her predecessors.
The characters in the novel are stretched thin to create “depth” and I searched endlessly to find her characters likable and not worked 10 times over, but the only part of likability they offer is the surface. And even then, Princess Aerity’s potential to be a heroine falls flat to the romance that drowns the pages. She could have been great.
There’s this expectancy with Paxton throughout this novel that turned me away from him immediately. It was not his own expectancy of the princess, but from the reader. We are expected to forgive his poor treatment of Princess Aerity when we find out why he treats her negatively. He’s obviously broken emotionally, so our hearts are supposed to bleed and understand.
It’s a continuous trend and has been for a long, long time. It’s a huge reason why the ending, the abrupt cliffhanger, left a bad taste in my mouth. I would hope Higgins tries harder to redeem his character than throwing a damaged lifesaver out and hoping we cling on because that’s all we have. Since she’s expanding the series even further, that wish may or may not come true.
A redeemable factor in the jumble of words resides in triumphant world building by Higgins, but it’s too bad that her characters overshadow a potentially beautiful setting and the political buds that grew more and more interesting. It could have been great.
Higgins has plans to continue the series, and a second book is probably being written right now.