The Beast (Hunter Legends #1) by Lindsay Mead
If you’ve been hanging around this blog for a hot minute, you probably realize I kind of have an obsession with awesome and original fairy tale retellings. I freaking LOVE THEM and there are some quality ones out there. In particular, I’m like a connoisseur of Beauty and the Beast retellings. Incidentally, this could explain my obsession with Robin McKinley in that every romance she writes is effectively a riff on Beauty and the Beast (and I’m not kidding). I reviewed K.M. Shea’s Beauty and the Beast several months ago, and I found myself missing that story the entire time I read this one. I seriously might have to give K.M. another review, too, because I’ve read that she’s only gotten better since her debut.
But back to the book at hand!
The Hunter Legends held such promise. The land neighboring Glace (fantasy France) was cursed, and the populace turned into vicious hellhounds. Belle is a hunter, and she lost her mother while doing battle against the hellhounds. Belle and her father have invented these steam punk contraptions to help them hunt the beasts, and in a fun twist, Belle and Gaston are comrades in arms. The Catholic church endorses the hunting of the hellhounds (because of course they do!), although they disapprove of Belle–a woman–hunting the beasts or leading men.
Does this set-up sound awesome? It is. It really is. But unfortunately, that’s where the amazing story evaporates. There’s nothing underneath the initial premise, which is all kinds of awesome. The several legitimately brilliant ideas are off-set by blandness in characters and pacing that made my head ache. Also, the ultimate myth arc fell flat towards the end because the characters didn’t work. That killed the good will, the momentum.
Belle and Gaston are sort of fleshed out. Weirdly, their relationship was the most convincing for me. I thought this story might get extremely interesting and have Gaston (or Belle!) turn into the quintessential hellhound/beast. Alas, the beast is a prince, and damn, is he bland. And Belle loves him INSTANTLY. Until Belle meets the prince, we’re given all this evidence of her as a badass hunter. Yes, there’s some info dumping, and that made her character thin for me, but this story seemed clever enough to get out of some flat characterization.
It wasn’t. Belle seriously falls in love with the prince in a series of moon dreams. Once again, cool idea, but overused. Instead of having Belle confront the prince earlier (and in his real form), she hangs out with him in dreams and swoons over him. This goes on forever, and it’s terribly boring. When Belle has to bring the prince back and deal with him fighting the curse, there’s a glimmer of interest in their relationship. The prince turns human (not via a kiss!), but he’s wounded and weak and can’t maintain his human form. Belle has to convince him to ‘let go’ and turn back into a beast, and he does, and it’s the realest their relationship ever gets. We never get to know much more about how Belle, a commoner, would deal with being courted by the prince. Other than Belle, the prince, and Gaston, there’s nothing else going on with the characters. Nothing. The main villain is a let down, too, in that her motivations distract from what makes Belle awesome. This is also due to the prince who is amazingly boring. He’s described as this ultra-good, ultra-smart person, and we never see any of that. Not really. The norn and Fenrir want him on their side because of his awesome Viking/Norse god ancestry, which further distracts from Belle and her role in the story.
Basically, I liked Belle, but if you’re writing Beauty and the Beast, both of those characters have to work for me to really love the book.
Rating: 2 stars. No amount of cool could save this story. I kind of hate this book for sucking so much at characterization because everything else was cool.