Author: Wendy Higgins
Publication Date: March 8, 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.
Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ tale, “The Singing Bone,” New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins delivers a dark fantasy filled with rugged hunters, romantic tension, outlawed magic, and a princess willing to risk all to save her people (goodreads).
The Great Hunt is a unique tale with potential for a strong, well-crafted series.
Plot: Princess Aerity wants a love like her parents - the king and queen. Her father, the king, married a common girl when he was younger, and all of their children were promised to have a love-match. This is Aerity's reality until a giant monster is seen terrorizing villages and eating villagers. Once it becomes apparent that the royal guard cannot kill the beast - Aerity's father proclaims that any hunter who slays the beast will become Aerity's betrothed.
I was really engaged in this story from the start- the characters were likable, and the monster was terrifying. There are many different layers to this story, including a registry for those with magic. I wish I could say that The Great Hunt ended as strongly as it started, but that was not the case. Things started feel a bit rushed as the story progressed - this included the romance and the antagonist.
Characters: One thing to note - Aerity is the only blonde in her family of redheads...yet the cover boasts a redhead. Why publishing companies, why?
Moving on, Aerity is a very sweet heroine, albeit a little naive. Her relationship with her family always put a smile on my face and reminded me a bit of Merida and her siblings from Brave. Our obvious love interest, Paxton, is everything you expected. He is standoffish, a skilled hunter, family-oriented, and a bit...rude. The romance in The Great Hunt was my least favorite aspect because it was attraction-at-first-sight, and I couldn't find myself to like Paxton as he was constantly pushing Aerity away and berating her.
Worldbuilding: Higgins' visions for Eurona is extraordinary. The land of Lochlanach is clearly inspired by Scotland with its misty landscapes, fashion, and language, The people make a living by fishing and other water-related activities. I loved how much that played into the culture. It's common for surnames to contain "sea," and there are expressions like "by the seas," and "to smack with a whalebone." It felt complete, and I would love to explore the other lands.
Short N Sweet: The Great Hunt has potential to be a great series; however; for me, this first installment started stronger than it ended.