RATING: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
With the plethora of young adult novels out in the world, there are genres within genres within genres. So many, in fact, that certain types and tropes crop up in teen fiction and in paranormal romance and in sci-fi/adventures. I’ve discovered that after reading enough YA that I have found that there are certain things I shy away from: mostly romance of the vampiric kind and fairy tale re-tellings, although I’m willing to read exceptions to the rules. But alas! I have found another: royal courts and pageantry.
So when I picked up Crimson Bound, I was willingly jumping into a Little Red Riding Hood twist in a courtly setting. I unknowingly set this book up to fail. I apologize now.
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge is described as “inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood” (jacket copy, not by any reader) and follows the story of Rachelle, a bloodbound—more on that later. Having made her pact unknowingly with the Great Forest years ago, Rachelle spends her cursed life working for the king. When she discovers that the Devourer (the evilest of evils who will swallow the sun and the moon) is planning to rise, Rachelle takes it upon herself to find the legendary sword(s) to defeat him. But the king has other plans, and Rachelle is to be the bodyguard/parole officer to the king’s illegitimate son, possible heir to the throne, and biggest liar there is—Armand. Rachelle and Armand end up working together to find the sword, find redemption for Rachelle, and stop the coup against the king.
There’s a lot going on.
Crimson Bound is a visual book, so much so that I’m afraid I missed the spell power of what was actually happening amidst the overly descriptive, movie-esque quality of the setting. The Great Forest pops up at inopportune times, or is controlled by Armand—who also had a run in with a forestborn who cut off both his hands (a strange, but interesting physical limitation that Hodge plays with often, and that I wholly enjoyed.) However, it was hard to mentally conceptualize the atmosphere with Rachelle, Armand, and even the smattering of the myth about Tyr and Zisa, to easily follow along. It would make for one hell of a visual effects driven movie, and I hope it does.
Coupled with the (deficient) development of the world, following along became difficult. There was too much time spent discerning what and who was evil or good, right or wrong, helpful or deceitful (and not in the way plots like Golden Son by Pierce Brown left the audience gasping in surprise—although I had my qualms with that as well.) There are bloodbound, like Rachelle; people marked by the Great Forest but still have their soul. Forestborn, who are made by the Devourer, clearly soulless. And… there was another type, who were once bloodbound but now soulless. I mish-moshed them all together and couldn’t tell the difference. The development of the world was jumbled, crazed, manic, and wasn’t clearly spelled out before Hodge pulled us along into it.
That is a huge problem for me, especially when I am trying to feel bad for Rachelle.
See, when someone is marked by a forestborn, they have three days to kill someone or they die. Pretty grim. Rachelle, unfortunately, had to kill her beloved aunt (who was a woodwitch, the similar-to-but-not-quite-apothecary-like women of the town who make charms to stave away the Great Forest and its power.) So Rachelle, feeling guilty and wanting punishment for her crimes, walks around in a haze of self-fulfilling prophecies, believing she is a bad person. Despite the fact she was face with an impossible choice. Rachelle wants to be hated by everyone, wears that hatred like armor, and doesn’t let anyone get close. With her inability to listen to others or even consider another option—she wants to be a bad person, even if she doesn’t act like one—Rachelle became a frustrating read.
And don’t even get me started on her drop-of-a-hat love for Armand. I’ll get behind enemies-turning-to-lovers, but only if it’s done right. There was no lead up, no acceptable moment, when Rachelle’s feelings could change. And they continue to change, for Erec too. And then Armand, and then Erec again?
It’s just as confusing as forest-blood-born-wood-bound people.
However, I did like this book (surprise!) It has an audience who will get what Hodge was going for probably better than I did. The takeaways from this were far more than other books I have read (Talon, perhaps?) and Rachelle does have enough depth in her to make her choices and actions within the book somewhat logical and based on reasons of her own accord—even if I didn’t agree.
In the end, the tl;dr—Don’t know where the Little Red Riding Hood part comes in to this past the first 10 pages, but I’d give it a shot if romance and redemption are your jam.
This book will be released on May 5th, 2015
IF YOU LIKED THIS BOOK, YOU MIGHT LIKE: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Cinder by Marissa Meyer