Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill
Book One of the Clash of Kingdoms series
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: December 27, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.
However, it’s not so simple.
The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.
What I Liked:
I feel like I'd been waiting to read this book for forever! I remember seeing the cover reveal, and then obtaining an electronic galley early in 2016. But I put off reading the book because it was too far in advance. Still, I was excited. I've seen the publisher compare this book to Kristin Cashore's books - could it be that good? I'm a huge fan of Cashore's books, and I personally think no books compare. And while I stand by this statement, I will say that Ever the Hunted is definitely a book that Kristin Cashore fan would enjoy!
Britta's father was murdered, and as a girl, she can't inherit his property or cottage. Forced to poach in the king's land or starve, Britta has few options. When she's caught poaching, she's given a choice: track her father's killer, or hang. Britta is an excellent tracker, but the man who the King's high lord says to be Britta's father's killer is not someone Britta wants to track - Cohen McKay, Britta's childhood best friend who joined the King's ranks as a bounty hunter almost two years ago. Britta must find him, but as she tracks him down, she begins to find out that her father's murder was not as it seems, and neither is she. Britta has a power that she discovers, but it may be too late before someone finds out.
This story starts off slow, but gradually picks up speed and really hooks you after a certain point. For me, that was once we actually meet Cohen (you knew that was going to happen). This occurs fairly early in the story. Britta is forced to track him, accompanied by the King's captain and two guards (i.e. her jailers). She escapes them when Cohen "kidnaps" her from them... and that's really when I started getting into the story.
Britta is a likable heroine, and I could see a potential comparison of her to some of Cashore's heroines. She's tough and headstrong, determined and willful. She's also compassionate and very selfless, and all of these qualities make her a strong and capable young woman. She isn't perfect, nor is she a cliche kickbutt YA heroine. She gets caught and captured and it's not her brilliance or her cunning that leads to her escape. But she is intelligent and clever, in an authentic and believable way.
I adored Cohen. In the first quarter of the book, he isn't quite painted in the best light; he left his home (and Britta) about two years ago to pledge his service to the King, and he is a trained bounty hunter for the King. But he broke his promise to Britta - he never returned to her. Britta has been heartbroken over this, and she's sad and angry at Cohen. The reunion between the pair made my heart twist, both in a good way and an angsty way. But back to Cohen - I liked him, despite him not returning to Britta. He had his reasons, and they were good enough reasons for me. Cohen is protective and very loyal, and it's obvious that he loves Britta (and never stopped loving her).
This is an interesting fantasy world that Summerill has created. There are two kingdoms that are currently warring. Channelers are prosecuted in Britta's country; Channelers wield magic, and their powers depends on which element they rely on. Magic is a significant part of the story. The war between the two countries is always in the background - not the focus of the story, yet very important to the story. Another important part that circles back in the end is a Channeler's control over the King... something that Britta finds out.
While the story was initially slow, it is extremely easy to read, and you'll find yourself turning pages in no time. It's not hard to root for Britta, to await her reunion with Cohen, to see who really killed her father (because it really couldn't be Cohen - right?). There are plenty of twists and turns, but most are laid out in the last quarter of the book. Talk about plot twists! Summerill keeps throwing them at us, even on the very last page.
Other characters I liked besides Britta and Cohen - Leif, one of Britta's "jailer" guards. Leif is one of the two guards in the beginning, keeping her in line as she tracked Cohen. But he was the nicer of the two, and protected Britta when he could. He ends up playing a huge role in the book. I also liked Enat, a powerful Channeler who also plays a huge role in the book.
The romance! This romance was wonderful to watch unfold. Now, we already know that there is history between Britta and Cohen. They grew up together, and were best friends until Cohen left. Britta has always been in love with him, and Cohen has always been in love with her, but neither said anything to the other. Reunited after almost two years, their relationship is strained at first. Britta doesn't think he wants her, and Cohen has his reasons for needing the distance between them. But I love watching them lose the thorns and open up to each other. The majority of this book is spent with the two of them traveling alone together, and there is a lot of relationship growth during those pages. I love how their relationship turns out. Quite the swoony romance, in the end! I hope it sticks.
The ending wraps up fairly nicely, but the very last paragraph drops a bit of a bombshell that isn't quite a cliffhanger, but leaves me needing to know more. I know this is book one of a two-book series, and I'm desperately impatient for book two!
What I Did Not Like:
I don't want to scare anyone unnecessarily because there is NOT a love triangle in this book... perhaps I'm just too cautious but I hope Summerill doesn't somehow wedge one in. I didn't get the sense from the book, that she would do that, but my radar went off faintly... faintly. Again, in this book, there is NO love triangle. None. And I'm hoping I'm reading into nothing - I hope book two doesn't go in any direction even close to one. This is a two-book series so you would think not...
Would I Recommend It:
I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. I've been reading a lot of good YA fantasy recently and can certainly count this one among them. While I can't say this compare's to Cashore's novels (nothing can!), I definitely see why the publisher would draw the comparison. If you like Cashore's books, or Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, or Sara B. Larson's debut trilogy, this is a good novel to follow!
4 stars. I am delighted by how much I enjoyed this book! It was a whirlwind and then a rollercoaster of emotions, good and bad, and I'm very curious to see where the author will take the story in book two. And I'm hoping this story stays a duology!
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