Book title: Crimson Bound
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins Publishers)
Release date: May 2015
Format: Hardcover, 436 pages
When Rachelle was fifteen, she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.
Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?
Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.
Rosamund Hodge’s books are breathtaking, magical stories, if at times slightly confusing though still pretty epic. I love how she combines completely different elements flawlessly and seamlessly in her stories. Her writing is beautiful and atmospheric. Her cover artist/designer is a genius. Ahem, moving along… Crimson Bound is a take on Little Red Riding Hood and the lesser-known fairy tale The Girl Without Hands (only gender swapped). This fantasy world with a French flair is mysterious and elaborate. All the characters are layered and complex. Everyone’s hiding secrets and everyone has their own agenda. It’s fascinating as people’s plans start unraveling.
Our protagonist, Rachelle, is marked by a forestborn and given a choice: either die, or kill someone to complete her transformation into a bloodbound, a sort of interim phase before she will become forestborn herself. The forest is evil, and the Devourer is the dark, divine thing that controls it all. Rachelle starts looking for a legendary sword that can defeat the Devourer, although this book is far from a quest type story.
There are two other characters Rachelle works with, both guys: Erec, another bloodbound she frequently partners with under the King’s orders, and Armand, the King’s bastard son Rachelle is ordered to protect. I guess there is a love triangle between them, but it didn’t ever strike me as love triangle-y (and I’m not a fan of love triangles at all! Who is, anymore?). The romance is not the focus of the story, and I had no problem with Rachelle’s feelings for both Erec and Armand, believe it or not. She’s had a long history with Erec, and they’ve been in a relationship before. She has a thing for Armand, as he’s new and different and understands her. Her relationships with the guys seemed natural and quite logical, if a bit frustrating (in a good way, mostly). I know many readers will disagree with me, but I didn’t think this was a standard icky love triangle at all. It was handled well, with the plot and everyone’s motives driving the story forward. No angst here.
That being said, I’ll admit I was actually drawn more to Erec than Armand. I thought Armand was a little bland, though very nice. Even though Erec was a douche most of the time, he had life and energy and was never boring. I never completely shipped Rachelle with Erec (or Armand, for that matter), but I thought the two of them actually had more going on, and were more compatible. SPOILER ALERT! DON’T READ THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVE NOT READ CRIMSON BOUND! Imagine my surprise when Erec turned out to be a villain. Strangely, I didn’t hate him after the reveal. What does that say about me…? END OF SPOILER.
Crimson Bound is not without flaws, however. It took me until halfway through to get really invested, and I’ll say that the second half of the book is much better than the first half. I found the lore and magic of the forest and the bloodbound and the forestborn to be, while fascinating, a bit hard to wrap my head around at first. Even the old fables of the world that were told, which were important to the plot, never really gripped me. I normally don’t dislike stories within stories, but, sadly, the ones here never really clicked for me.
I’ve seen a lot of reviewers mention that the book is only loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood, and many of them got worked up about how “loose” this retelling was. I say, chill out readers. Not every retelling needs to be completely faithful to the original fairy tale. I love it when books re-imagine and reinvent ways to portray parts from their original source material. In Crimson Bound, there are many noticeable similarities, obviously: the forest, the wolf, the grandmother figure, and Red/Rachelle wanting revenge. (I also have to say that I loved the wolf twist Rosamund Hodge placed. I didn’t see it coming, though I probably should have.) But remember that this book is also a retelling of The Girl Without Hands, so you’re actually getting two fairy tales that are woven together. Calm down, everyone. This retelling of Little Red Riding Hood is wonderful, and who the heck cares if it doesn’t have actual wolves running around all the time? 😉
Overall, Crimson Bound is a very lush, dark fantasy. I didn’t like it as much as Cruel Beauty, but it’s also so very different. (It’s not a sequel to Cruel Beauty, also note. Many of us thought it was, but no, Crimson Bound is set in a completely different world.) It wasn’t the snappiest of starts but it paid off in the end. I’m always blown away by Rosamund Hodge’s creativity. She’s a master at mixing ideas together to create fabulous plots and worlds. I do recommend Crimson Bound. It’s gorgeous, it’s unique, it’s dark, it’s romantic, and it’s really just an awesome story about a girl who doesn’t want to live in fear and who wants to control her own life. ♦
So tell me…
Have you read Crimson Bound? If you haven’t, would you be interested to? What was the last fairy tale retelling you read? Have you read any Little Red Riding Hood retellings? Comment below letting me know! And, as always, happy reading!