SPOILER ALERT!
The Great Hunt - Wendy Higgins

Contrary to what the description says, this is not a retelling of the Singing Bone. In the original tale, the older brother (Paxton) was wicked and killed the younger brother (Tiern) after he killed the boar (terrible creature) and then the older brother (Paxton) took the boar and claimed the hand of the princess as his reward. Years later a shepherd sees a bone and uses it to make the mouthpiece of his horn, but whenever he plays the horn it sings a song about how the younger brother killed the boar, only to be killed by his older brother. The king eventually hears the horn singing and questions the older brother who doesn't deny that he killed his younger brother and is, himself killed and buried in unhallowed ground while the younger brother's bones are found and buried in the churchyard. Except the fact that there is an animal and whoever kills it will get the hand of the princess, and there are two brothers involved, there really isn't much in this book to claim that it was inspired by the Singing Bone. And granted this is only the first book of a duology, but given the fact that neither of the brothers killed the beast, and they are on good terms with one another, I find it extremely doubtful that the second book will be able to convince me that this story is a retelling of that story.

 

The good: I thought that Aerity was a good character. Most of the time when female characters are faced with an arranged marriage they whine, sulk or run away. Aerity, for once looks at the problem, weighs the good an arranged marriage will do for her people to the pain it will cause herself, and chooses to accept the burden. I also liked Tiern. He was a sweet and unassuming character who genuinely meant well. Unfortunately, he had almost no reaction to learning that his brother was a lashed, and I didn't think that was normal character behavior. Speaking of the lashed, I found the idea very interesting, and it was the one world-building portion of the book that I thought worked well. I also thought that the first scene was very moving, and it made me feel as thought Wyneth had just lost the love of her life.

 

The hunting scenes were enjoyable. I was convinced that the men knew what they were doing, and the boredom, followed by a few moments of action seemed believable.

The bad: Wyneth spends a couple of weeks mourning for the man who, in only a few minutes (reading via audiobook) I had been convinced she loved deeply, then a pushy jerk of a guy admires her, and pushes a little to hard to convince her to be in love with him or start an affair with him. I would have thought that was an interesting twist in the story if she hadn't reciprocated, but because Wyneth is immediately cast into something of an America Singer (from The Selection series) character ("My heart is broken...but I'm in love with this guy who I just met who is a little too possessive of me...but my heart is broken,") and that kind of ruined both her character, and the good first scene.

 

I hated Paxton. Yes, he is lashed, which is a difficult thing to be right now. No, he's not interested in having children and potentially giving them the magic that makes his life so difficult, but does he have to be such a blasted jerk? His first interaction with Aerity is to leer at her, and in almost every interaction after that he is a complete jerk, and she still falls in wuv with him. Given how unpleasant he is, but also how cute he's supposed to be, my only guess is that Aerity is deeply in lust with him, because even when people have instalove, the other person has to be at least a little bit nice first. Then Paxton spends most of the book being mean to Aerity, but then suddenly decides that he's in wuv with her too.

 

The end was frustrating. Not because of the sequel setup or the fact that Aerity ended up being engaged to the creep who has fallen in lust with her cousin, and her cousin has fallen in wuv with, in fact I thought that was a good set up. Aerity was being forced to truly give up something she wanted for her people, rather than being just lucky enough to get what she wanted, and the premise of a man who was interested in someone else in the castle, and too pushy to be considered a gentleman, being the man Aerity married is, in fact, a very interesting one. But the end fight scene felt forced somehow. Aerity catches up to them, and manages to stab the beast in it's vulnerable spot, but it doesn't die, and instead bats her and knocks her out and breaks her ribs. Then it kills Tiern, and Paxton gives up killing the beast, and his chance to be with the girl he wuvs, who also wuvs him, to "save" Tiern, but Tiern is already dead and Paxton brings him back to life. If Paxton could bring his brother back to life, why wouldn't he have waited a little longer and killed the beast and then done it? It would have made so much more sense if Tiern had been almost dead, instead of dead. Also, for some reason, after all of the tracking and hunting, and fighting with the beast, the fight seemed too fast. It went from, even after having discovered the beasts vulnerable spot, a large group of hunters and warrior women still couldn't kill the beast to three men and one strong-in-character-and-body-but-not-very-practiced-in-fighting girl were able to kill it. And even though Tiern died and Aerity was knocked out, for some reason, the fight still didn't seem dangerous.

 

I don't have high hopes for the romances, or the fairy tale this book was supposedly based after. Still I did enjoy parts of the book, so I'll give the second book a chance to prove me wrong.