Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
*Some spoilers in this review*
Crimson Bound is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. If you enjoy fairytale retellings, this is a fantastic story. I actually enjoyed this more than Cruel Beauty (which was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast), but I actually liked Cruel Beauty too. I think Rosamund Hodge’s storytelling improves in this one.
I enjoyed the author’s take on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, but she also incorporates the tale about the Girl with No Hands by incorporating a male character with silver hands. Rosamund Hodge has a talent for taking a fairy tale and making it her own.
When I think about the story, my favorite part was the world building. She incorporates historical French details with magic stemming from the Forest and the wolf-like creatures. She really took the big bad wolf character and created not just a reimagining of a villain, but a history within the setting. The French influences were from a period that was Marie-Antoinette-ish—an aristocracy that easily turns a blind-eye to the suffering of the lower class and they do it with lavish balls and opulent ceremony. The author really created a believable setting where the return of the Devourer could be easily dismissed for the pursuit of climbing the aristocratic social ladder.
The characters were drawn out really well. Rachel is a bloodbound—bound to serve the king or be sentenced to death for being bloodbound (a child of the Forest). She helps to fight the wood spawn from the Forest. Although she’s lost her humanity by becoming a bloodhound and kills for the king, she feels guilty for what she’s done and tries to atone for it by protecting humans even though they hate and distrust who and what she is. I really liked her characterization—she’s unapologetic about what she does because it’s necessary, but she still feels guilty and self-loathing about it. Because she’s bloobound, she’s also got supernatural reflects, healing powers, and energy and stamina—in other words she’s very good at killing. Despite her powers, she hates it because of what they mean and how she got them. I really like characters who have this kind of inner-struggle.
Eric is such a good villain. At first, he seems charming, confident, bit full of himself—a bit of the bad boy kind of character. But Rachelle hates him and at first you think she needs to relax, but as the story progresses, you start to understand their dynamics. Then you start to see past the charm and swagger and you start to hate him like Rachelle does. I love how the author brought this change so gradually and subtly. It made the ending with this character so much more satisfying.
Armand reminds me of those quiet, but thoughtful people who are bemused by their popularity, but accept it with grace. He’s the opposite in temperament of Rachelle which I found odd that she would be attracted to him and not Erec, but as the story progresses, we see how Armand’s personality acts as a way to ground Rachelle.
Despite the character dynamics, it didn’t feel like a YA love triangle to me. Rachelle’s feelings toward Erec were always consistent—she hated him the whole time! I don’t see how that would be considered a love triangle.
I also enjoyed the writing too. I have a new appreciation for writers who can keep up lyrical prose-like writing throughout an entire novel. I loved the imagery of the palace and aristocracy, and Rachelle’s reactions to low and high moments in the story.
I’d recommend this to readers who enjoy a dark fairy tale retelling with lyrical-like prose. I also recommend it if you enjoy word building details. There are some scenes of graphic violence and mention of sex. I would recommend this to readers 14 years and older.
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