First Lines: A late summer breeze blew warm over the deep and wide Lanach Creek. Moonlight caught the shock of Wyneth’s red-orange curls as she let her fiance, Breckon, lay her back on the end of the dock.
ARC alert! (Official release: March 8, 2016) I spotted this on a list of potential books to request and I was like, “Hmm. Wendy Higgins writes a solid fantasy? I can get behind this.” And after much procrastinating, I finally read it.
In the kingdom of Lochlanach, an evil beast is wreaking havoc. Deadly, dangerous, and brutal, it’s terrifying not just Lochlans but all in Eurona. Desperate, King Lochson sends out a proclamation: kill the beast and win his eldest daughter’s hand in marriage. Princess Aerity knows she must do her duty, but it destroys her to think of marrying a stranger and not for love. It’s positively foolish of her to set her sights on anyone who comes to the Great Hunt, but she finds herself drawn to a local hunter, Paxton Seabolt. Paxton isn’t interested in marriage, royals, or their arcane rules. He’s here to destroy the beast and protect his family. But Princess Aerity is constantly crossing his path and challenging his notions on royals. When past secrets combine with current desires, dangerous choices will have to be made…
Literally, the only reaction I can think of right now is the ridiculous Southern expression, “Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit.” This book…SWOON ALERT. And not just for Paxton.
The plot is deceptively simple, in that there’s a beast, an open proposal, and some hunts to find the beast. But it’s that simple plot that helps the story because it allows Higgins to really delve into the characters’ personalities, pasts, and quirks. And that’s not to say that the plot is boring or anything. It’s certainly not.
The characters are so interesting. Aerity definitely carries herself like a royal, but she’s got a lot of quirks. The best part was that she had a good heart, which went a long way to keeping my interest. But it was definitely Paxton who stole the show. Gruff, focused, and rude, his elusive gentle side was such a thrill to see. Peeling back his many layers was so much fun, because he really did have a reason for pushing everyone away. And there are so many minor characters who blip in and out of the story who truly charm you. (Aerity’s little sister Vixie and cousin Wyneth are two such characters, not to mention Paxton’s delightful little brother Tiern.)
The action was absolutely fascinating as well. We’re talking about hunts for a vicious, nearly invisible beast nightly. The body count rises quickly. It was lovely.
Oh, and the world building! It’s so great when I can totally get a feel for the world I’m in, and not just the way it looks on a map. I’m talking the landscape, the layout of rich vs. poor neighborhoods, and more.
Totally enjoyable. I stayed up late one night finishing this. I’m very excited to see what happens next in this duology!