“We always know before the change comes — but we never know what the change will bring.”

Everyone knows the story of Beauty and the Beast. It is, after all, a tale as old as time. A man cursed and a woman who somehow looks past the terrifying visage of the monster to love the man within. This is where the details start to veer off in different directions. The most well-known versions tell of a castle and its inhabitant’s bespelled and cursed, forgotten in time, but what if the reason Beauty headed to the Beast’s castle was revenge? So goes Meagan Spooner’s Hunted.

Yeva is the youngest daughter of a trader. In a risky caravan route, they lose everything and are forced to move back to the little cabin near the woods on the edge of the village. Secretly Yeva is thrilled about not attending boring dinner parties or sitting in on the Baroness’s sewing circle. She once tagged along on her father’s hunting expeditions so it’s back to the life she loved here along the edge of the forest. Her sisters Asenka and Lena however are less thrilled. Soon the three sisters are worried about their father; he comes home with strange tales of beasts watching him from the wood. Convinced there’s something in the forest that’s following him, he sets out to find it. When he doesn’t return Yeva sets out on a search to bring him home.

Set in medieval Russia, Hunted weaves together Russian folklore and Beauty and the Beast deftly. The folklore aspect weaves in so well you don’t realize how important it is it until closer to the end. I very much enjoyed that it’s a bit darker than the traditional lovey dovey retellings. Often the original fairytales we know had much darker origins. Spooner manages to retell it in a way I haven’t seen before while simultaneously staying in the same vein. It’s a YA novel so it wasn’t overly long and it’s a nice book to curl up with on a dreary day. I thoroughly enjoyed it.