Written by Wendy Higgins
Published March, 2016 by HarperTeen
Genres: Fantasy, Medieval
Purchase: The Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia
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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.
I was worried after seeing some not-so-stellar reviews that The Great Hunt was going to fall into my ‘eagerly anticipated but severe let down’ pile. After reading so many ‘meh’ books this month, I was fully prepared to be disappointed with my first Wendy Higgins book. But – the weirdest thing happened – I actually really enjoyed this one…
“Everything was going to be okay. Forces would be dispatched this very day to try to catch the nocturnal beast where it slumbered. They would hunt through the night if necessary. By the next day, this madness could be over.”
The Great Hunt has been on my radar since the tail-end of 2015. A magical land, high fantasy, romance and the promise of an epic beast hunt? Consider me sold. Although the cover doesn’t do this book any justice (and after reading, hardly relates to the story inside), I found that The Great Hunt had crept high up on all of my 2016 book lists.
Before I go any further, I have to say that if you are looking for a story with kick-ass, strong women, The Great Hunt is not for you. The girls in this story are extremely squishy and ornamental, but while it irked others, I actually found it… fitting? This is a medieval tale after all, and while it’s always AWESOME to see some kick-butt heroines, I don’t believe every story needs to have them to make it epic. After all, aren’t ALL the YA high fantasies doing it these days? That’s not to say I am a-okay with women being weak… don’t get me wrong about that… it’s just that the women in The Great Hunt aren’t exactly treated badly. Instead, they’re kind of living the plush lives that they want and are pursuing the romances and hobbies that they want.
Yes, our lead character Princess Aerity is naive and (let’s admit it) useless when it comes to a fight, but she is willing to sacrifice for her kingdom. She spends all her free time practicing her aerial acrobatic skills on the silks (I didn’t know why at the tiem, but it actually came in handy!) and has been brought up as the future queen of the Lochlands. Aerity was pretty plain and run-of-the-mill as far as princesses go, but she wasn’t terrible.
Aerity falls (surprise, surprise!) for a commoner joining the hunt named Paxton. Raised as a fisherman, Paxton holds resentment towards the Royal Family, but wants to pursue the beast in order to win Princess Aerity’s hand and the riches that come along with being her husband. Paxton is your typical brooding love interest, but he also has a little brother, Tiern, who accompanies him on the hunt. Paxton and Tiern’s relationship really stopped me from eye-rolling over the seeming insta-love between Aerity and Paxton, offering a nice change of pace between the heated stares.
“Is it so hard to believe I’d prefer to be alone? I’m certain every eligible man in the kingdom would fall over his boot strings for a chance to ride behind your royal arse, but I am not one of them.”
There’s a cast of other characters; Wyneth, the other hunters, Princess Vixie, etc. Wendy Higgins did a fantastic job of making sure everyone was fleshed out and memorable. Not once did I have to double-back and remind myself who was who. Once a character had been introduced, they had been introduced for a reason, not just a name on the page. I think it was also because of the other characters that Aerity and Paxton remained ‘dealable’ as leads.
The story itself was quite thrilling. The hunt for the beast was exciting, although I wish the beast itself had had a little more page time. There was even the inclusion of a female tribe of huntresses, the Zandalee, which was fun. At over 400-pages, I had no idea how long the beast hunt would take, but I didn’t mind. I was actually quite stumped as to how it would all play out.
There was the introduction, too, of the ‘lashed’ – the magic users of the kingdom. While I wasn’t exactly interested in the outlawed magic aspect of the story, I knew it would be part of the bigger arc for which the duology would explore. Interestingly enough, everything tied together and formed a bigger story which I’m eager to see continue (and conclude) with the next book.
“The late afternoon was gorgeous—warm and clear—as if Mother Nature were trying to make up for the abominable beast she’d created.
You’ll have to do better than that, Aerity thought.”
I think Eurona is a relatively small land (I didn’t get a long look at the map on ebook) but The Great Hunt did a fantastic job of showcasing all the kingdoms that formed it. Sure, there were your typical cultures, but I loved the Scottish ‘flavour’ of Aerity’s lochlands. Each culture was quite distinctive, too.
There were some things I wasn’t too keen on, such as the ‘after the fact’ chapters near the end and the way everything was a little too predictable in the way of ‘who liked who’, etc. But I had a whole lot of fun reading The Great Hunt and had no qualms not so ever about the leading lady taking a backseat to the fight.
This is one of those books that you’ll either love or hate. Take it from me, don’t believe anyone else’s reviews about this one. It’s one of those ones you’ll just have to read for yourself and see. If I had relied on some of my trusted fellow-reviewers, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up after all.
I can’t wait for the finale!