See that first paragraph? That's prevarication. I admit it. I'm sitting here, looking at the screen wondering what, exactly, I can say about Ever the Hunted that hasn't already been said about a wannabe fantasy.
I should have known that this book and I were not meant to be (but not "not meant to be" in the sense that most YA fantasy uses it, meaning that we will absolutely detest each other at the beginning, but then I'll be taken in by the book's liquid eyes/rugged abs/saucy lock of hair, but we'll still fight, and then passionately declare our love for each other at the cliffhanger ending, just when some other vaguely attractive guy has sauntered in and declared his love for me*). I should have known from the moment that a starving girl who refers to herself as a "freckled skeleton" carries the carcass of a massive bull elk into town to try and sell the meat.
There's a "do you even lift?" joke in here somewhere, but I haven't the heart to put you through that.
Okay, let's back up. Britta is in mourning. Her father, the King's Bounty Hunter, taught her everything there is to know about hunting, tracking, and general woodsmanship. Britta has killer (literally) aim with her bow and arrow, and can track anything or anyone through the Ever Woods in the Kingdom of Malam. Alas (there is always an alas, you bet your royal coinage on it), she is not exactly a welcome personage. The Kingdom of Malam's neighbor and enemy is the Kingdom of Shaerdan, and Britta's mother was a Shaerdanian. Shaerdanians are super scary because they can do magic and ... stuff. At least, that's what the gossiping old biddies say. And Britta is treated with contempt because of her mother, but protected from any real attacks by her father's position. This is a Big Deal in the story, because #identitystruggles and all that jazz, but honestly, there's a lot of telling and not much showing. To quote my high school French teacher, "blablablablablabla."
Right, back to the elk. So Britta has been hanging out in the forest since her Papa died two months earlier, evidently not remembering to eat. Emaciation from grief is so hot right now. Just as she's about to pass out from lack of food, lo! A six-point bull elk wanders into view. Britta is torn. Should she shoot the elk in the King's woods, thus becoming a poacher (punishable by death!), or should she wait and find something smaller a bit farther away. The elk is majestic. Britta shoots him, and then field-dresses the carcass, drying the meat and saving the pelt.
If elk in Malam are anything like elk here, it probably weighed between 500-700lbs. I don't know what Britta weighs, but she's a) weak from hunger and b) a self-described skeleton. I also don't know her exercise regime. But she slices and dices like it's no big deal, and then takes a sack of the meat back to town to try and trade. And not a couple of filet mignons à la wapiti, either. A whole sack of meat. Literally 24 hours earlier she was too weak to walk, and then she lugs a bunch of meat back to town to trade.
Of course she's caught, and taken to the King, where she's going to be executed, but lo! (again!) Who's that? Why, it's the King's trusted advisor, Lord Jamis. And he has a proposition. Don't they all?
The tl;dr of it is: Britta's secret crush, who was also her father's apprentice, who was also the King's new Bounty Hunter, killed her father and went on the lam. If Britta captures him, she'll go free and have her land as inhertance. And, you know, not get hanged for poaching. But why would Britta fall for such an obvious set-up? She has a secret. A secret power--she knows when people are telling the truth. It's like a warm fire inside of her--and she feels it as Jamis tells the tale. So, completely discounting everything she knows about her loverboy, Cohen, she agrees to hunt him down and kill him.
Reviewer's truth right now: I am literally sitting her shaking my head back and forth because girl, no. Also, I'm offended as a reader--are we supposed to be as dense as Britta? Honestly. So much no.
Anyway, Cohen whisks her away from her captors and they sort of make up but don't make out yet. Britta finally reveals her magic and Cohen gets all pouty, but then they decide to ride for Shaerdan! Yahhhh! That got me to about 40% of the way in and I couldn't take it anymore.
From here on out, I predict lots of chases, lots of agonized, lustful gazing, lots of kissing, some mild endangerment, and the requisite sequel setup ending. It's like reading a plot diagram.
If you want really cool stories about intrigue, hunting, fantasy kingdoms, power struggles, and more, read these books instead:
The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
The Graceling series by Kristin Cashore
The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine
Court Duel and Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
The Princess in The Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
Poison by Bridget Zinn (bonus: involves an adorable pig!)
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce
The Lyra books by Patricia C. Wrede
The Songs of Eirren duology by Edith Pattou
Shield of Stars by Hilari Bell
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
literally anything by Mercedes Lackey
ditto Tamora Pierce
However, if you have an exercise regime that will allow me to lift hundreds of pounds of elk meat, please let me know. I have a feeling that barbell squats won't be enough.
I received an ARC of this title from Edelweiss and the publisher.
*This will never happen to me. Thank goodness.