Whether you like this or not likely will come down to your trope tolerance. Because honestly, there’s nothing new here in this soppy romance of a YA fantasy and it manages to hit every branch on the cliche tree as it freefalls. The main character is a prime example of needing more show to justify the tell while the male lead is so overidealized as to need only little birds combing his hair in the morning to be a Disney prince.
Story: Britta’s father, a hunter of people, was murdered and now she is destitute. Caught poaching, the sentence is hanging. But she is given an offer she can’t refuse: hunt down her father’s killer and she’ll be freed. The problem is, the killer is her father’s apprentice, Cohen. Can she bring herself to kill the boy she once loved?
That summary above is the first 1/4 of the book. And it is resolved almost immediately and rather abruptly. To get to that point, we have a lot of nothing with our main character Britta – travel, meanness of her guards, escape attempts, etc. The pacing was very off in this book and so much felt like “he did this, she did that, they did this, they did that.” There was very little impetus and the story just bounced around from one incident to another without an organic segue to ease the transitions. It felt like reading bullet points of a story rather than a story itself.
Main character Britta was contradictory. Raised by a spymaster, she is so naive as to be transparent. There’s no guile there and yet the boy raised with her is supposed to be the master spy as well. I’m not sure how that happened but we’re told rather than shown a lot of facts that never add up. As typical with this genre, Britta spends most of her time rudely and unrealistically refusing help (because she has to be shown as tough, right? Who cares if it makes her look too stupid to live). She’s supposed to be an expert tracker but spends a lot of time missing important steps/clues. And for a girl who can ‘feel’ when others are telling the truth or not, you’d think she’d have been able to clue in about human nature better. Of course, her little supernatural gifts will be only used for soppy romance plot points with the hunky Cohen.
Love interest Cohen is, not surprisingly, madly in love with the rude, stupid, petty, and obnoxious girl. He’ll sacrifice anything for her – which is fortunate for her since he smells so good all the time. Or so we’re told ad nauseum. And when Britta isn’t smelling or admiring Cohen’s physique, she’s missing all the Mack-truck sized signals that the poor guy is madly in love with her. Yes, we have the tried and true “I’m obnoxious and rude to him because it makes me look strong but he still is madly in love with me because he thinks it means I have strength and spirit. But I haven’t figured it out yet.” Yep, the romance genre ‘spitfire’ trope rears its ugly head. It’s hard to respect a guy that would put up with all her BS, to be honest. Because, hey, guys love it when a girl contradicts everything they say/do because clearly she thinks she’s smarter than him. But then he couldn’t save her when she CONSTANTLY gets in trouble from those constant bad decisions, right?
The plot itself? Bog standard YA fantasy of a unique snowflake who doesn’t know she’s speshul. Or that the ‘prince’ is in love with her. Or that her dead parent had a special gift. Fortunate coincidences abound, with people throwing themselves at her feet in order to help her out – even if it endangers their lives or the lives of someone they care about. Because, hey, they can all sense that she is speshul, even though she’s is a rude, obnoxious, clueless, twit who constantly nearly gets everyone killed through her stubborn stupidity. Let’s not get into the utter obviousness of the bad guy here – it’s telegraphed from space, it’s so obvious to everyone except the characters in the book.
Yes, you are likely detecting some sarcasm here. Had there been some kind of originality in the plot or even less of a focus on the romance (let’s face it, the entire plot is to support the soppy romance), then I might have stuck with Ever the Hunted. But there’s nothing new here under the sun and I feel like this book is one large ‘paint by numbers’ YA fantasy. I keep hoping for more and better in the genre. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.