Goodreads: Ever the Hunted
Series: Clash of Kingdoms #1
Seventeen-year-old Britta Flannery is about to lose everything. Her father has been murdered, she is starving due to her two months’ of mourning, and the king will soon repossess her father’s property. So when she is caught poaching, she takes a deal: her life in exchange for the life of her father’s murderer. Unfortunately, the high lord claims that the murderer is the man she loves.
“Bravery is a choice that is yours to make. Don’t let fear steal your will.”
Sometimes I read a book to the end and am not sure why I wasted my time. Ever the Hunted is one of those books that makes me mourn for the lost hours I will never regain. With its cliche and predictable plot, its oblivious (yet super powerful) heroine, and its cringe-inducing prose, Ever the Hunted has little to recommend it beyond its pretty cover.
Readers will have identified the true murderer about thirty pages into the story. However, Erin Summerill still makes us slog through nearly 400 pages to get to the big “revelation.” This does not merely make the book dull; it also makes the protagonists look incredibly dense. After all, upon learning that someone appears to be manipulating the king, they stand around in pure bafflement, totally overlooking the man who makes all the decisions. Upon learning that the king’s guard may be involved, they overlook the man who is in charge of the king’s guard. Upon finding some information, they decide that their best option is to take this information to the man who obviously committed the crime.
This level of obtuseness is especially difficult to sympathize with because at least three people manage to ignore all the warning signs. Plus, it is coupled with that all-too-common phenomenon: the protagonist who is super powerful and super skilled, yet still manages to do nothing useful. Britta wants us to believe she is a Strong Female who is one of the best trackers in the kingdom (and she possesses unusually strong magic! No one saw that coming!). Still, she manages to walk into multiple traps. She is captured five times in one novel. And readers can always see the next capture coming because Britta possesses almost no agency; she actually needs to get captured for the plot to advance and for her to get to where she needs to go.
Other moments in the book are just as predictable, often because they are cliche or tropey. (Potential spoilers ahead!) There is an implied love triangle, of course. There is the “revelation” of Britta’s super rare magic. There is the “revelation” that Britta has some relatives still hanging about. (And I’d bet that she has still more in the sequel.) And, worst of all, there is the on-again, off-again relationship. In fact, though the book seems like a fantasy, it is actually a romance, with 90% of Britta’s thoughts being taken up by her friend Cohen’s body. She really wants him, but has trust issues. But they kiss a lot. But it can’t mean anything. Because even though she is blonde and blue-eyed and super pretty, she’s actually ugly. So no one could ever love her. She should break it off. Except somehow she keeps finding herself making out with him. It’s really confusing. But she’ll get back to us with her final decision about breaking it off once she finishes kissing him again.
This is all capped off with the cringe-inducing prose. Britta, of course, really loves to wax poetic about her hair because what woman isn’t obsessed with describing her physical attributes in words like this: “My hair, which is usually bound in a braid, falls past my shoulders, a veil of pale blond that shines silver in the moonlight.” She’ll return to describing her hair throughout the novel. She also really loves to talk about Cohen’s body and her reaction to it. A lot. With awkward descriptions. And drama? Apparently all you need to do in order to build drama is to write everything in short sentences, until the reader wants to scream.
I saw mixed reviews about this one and initially was not going to read it. I wish I had stuck with my first decision. This is one of the worst books I have ever read, and I truly regret that YA has come to a place where this book can sell successfully enough to get two sequels. The YA market is capable of producing and supporting well-written books with vivid world-building, beautiful prose, and strong characterization. I wish I could see more of those types of books being sold.