Title: Ever the Hunted
Series Details: Clash of Kingdoms #1
Author: Erin Summerill
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Imprint: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: December 27, 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Blurb 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.
I am greatly disappointed. First, the book managed to hit all the clichés I was trying to avoid. Second, the world-building made no sense. Third, Britta just can’t stop whining. God! (More on this later.) Fourth. It. Was. So. Predictable! Fifth, I didn’t see so much clashing of kingdoms for a series that is called Clash of Kingdoms. I thought I was getting some action-packed fantasy story dashed with a little romance. But instead, it’s the other way around. Sixth, the romance was boring. Everything… and I mean everything, was pretty basic and unimaginative.
Before I go further with my rants, let me tell you first that this review is greatly affected by the fact that I am an avid fantasy reader. When you read a lot of books from one particular genre, chances are, you’ll find yourself harder to surprise and even harder to impress. This book may work for those who doesn’t read fantasy books as much as I do. But for me, all I saw in this were just rehashed bits and pieces from dozens of other fantasy books I’ve read before. I recently just finished reading Truthwitch whose theme was similar to this, and though I had issues with it I find it more enjoyable than this book.
Bravery is a choice that is yours to make. Don’t let fear steal your will.
The list of issues I have for this book is quite long so let me start with the biggest —Britta. I was willing to ignore the fact that she appears to be the epitome of typical YA characterization —she’s an outcast, she knows how to use her weapons, she’s the best tracker in the kingdom, she’s beautiful but of course she’s oblivious to it. Sadly, my other problems with her character weren’t as easy to ignore.
For a protagonist, Britta was pretty slow in seeing the obvious. With the book written entirely on her POV it’s hard not to notice how dumb she is at times! It was evident that she possess some strange power right after she tells us about her ability to tell truth from lies and her ability to tell if someone (a person, an animal, or even a plant) is dying. She can even feel the life leaving them. And yet it never occurred to her that she has magic in her blood? How come? There were other big clues as to what she is along the way but it still took her more than half of the book before she figured it out. But when it comes to tracking Cohen —her best friend, love interest, and her father’s alleged murderer —Britta suddenly turns overly smart that she can tell you where Cohen is headed just by looking at a bush! Yeah, because only Cohen could have stepped on that bush, riiiight? And not some wild animal or a guard patrolling the place!
It also didn’t help that Britta keeps on thinking about Cohen’s muscles, his chocolate colored eyes, and his divine smell, all the time. I get it. He’s hot. But do you really have to tell me that in every chapter? And while the captain of the guard is on their tail eager for both their heads, Britta is busy telling me how Cohen still smell delicious even after weeks of travelling without a bath! At this point I have lost count of how many times I’ve rolled my eyes. Because after travelling that long without a shower you just can’t smell good.
And on top of all my Britta related issues is Britta’s constant whining about Cohen. Seriously, can’t the girl think of anything else? Here I am, waiting for some solid explanation about why Shaerdan and Malam were fighting. Instead I am given a lot of Britta’s useless thoughts about how it hurts that Cohen didn’t come back for her when he said he would, that Cohen only sees her as a friend (although it’s obvious that he’s in love with her!). Again, eye roll. I’m having the idea that this book was written to test how many eye-rolls a human can possibly make every five minutes. The worst part is, Britta has to think about those repeatedly throughout the book so we won’t forget that her heart is hurting.
Ever the Hunted is a long book but with the romance taking up most of the space there wasn’t much room left for a solid and detailed world-building. Everything in that department was hazy. We have two kingdoms —Shaerda and Malam —who are in the brink of a war. Channelers were hated in Malam and revered in Shaerda. And that’s it for world-building. So we don’t know about their history, their cultures, and their people. There wasn’t even a decent description for either kingdom’s political structure. I’m not even much of a fan of politics and military tactics but these kingdoms were going on a war, you say? Then I want to know who leads them.
Spoiler Alert: I’m now going to poke at some possible plot holes so there will be huge spoilers ahead. If you haven’t read this book yet, you can skip the next paragraph.
So, to the plot holes. Someone killed Britta’s father and pinned the murder to Cohen Mackay, of all people! Why him when everyone knows that Cohen regards the man as his own father? But whatever, by some miracle, the murderer’s plan worked. Cohen is on the run and the captain of the guard himself is after him. And with luck on this murderer’s side, Britta, the daughter of the man he killed was just caught poaching and would be dead in days. That’s one person less who wanted revenge, right? But no, he just can’t help but make dumb decisions, so he decided to save Britta and let her track Cohen. Granted, Britta is the best tracker there is and he needs her skill if he want to capture Cohen but didn’t it occur to him that the two grew up together and might form an alliance against the real murderer the moment they figure out the truth? Seriously, was this killer trying to get away with murder or was he trying to get himself caught?
I think this book follows a very common YA pattern: a simple heroine who turned out to be so very special, kingdoms at war, and predictable plot. Only the love triangle is missing. Oh, wait, it has one coming!
For me this book is a case of decent writing, trope-y theme. Erin Summerill’s writing wasn’t bad, it’s actually smooth. I even love how she describes nature in there. Sadly the story falls a little below my standard. But hey, just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean you won’t. If this is one of your highly anticipated books then go give it a try.