Published by Balzer & Bray on May 5, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
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*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.
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.
(This is a standalone novel, not part of the Cruel Beauty Universe.)
One of the more interesting Little Red Riding Hood adaptations I’ve come across
Crimson Bound definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. While it was Little Red Riding Hood inspired it wasn’t the typical retelling at all, and it was lovely to experience something unique. In case you were hoping this was a continuation of Rosamund Hodge’s book Cruel Beauty, it is not. The cover is lovely but I think it was a poor choice to design it so closely resembling Cruel Beauty. Both feature completely different characters in what I am fairly sure are totally different fantasy worlds. Crimson Bound is heavier on the fantasy with no shortage of the grim and dark. The main character Rachelle is our young red hood and in the vein of the original tale strays on the way to ‘grandmother’s’ house and meets a wolf. In this case it is a ‘forestborn’ that she meets who places a mark upon her, and like all those who are thusly marked by a forestborn, Rachelle must kill someone in three days time or go insane and die herself. She thought she was strong enough to resist but she succumbs, commits murder and becomes a bloodbound. After the opening of that the story picks up years later after she has entered the service of the king which is the only way for a bloodbound to postpone being put to death for the crime of murder.
Monsters, assassins and court intrigue
Almost everyone is suspect in this novel. Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, whether they are the very obvious ones that are trying to flay the skin from your bones, or those clothed in court finery. This book blended the feel of country folklore with that of a King’s court, one that I believe was inspired by the French Court. I have to admit it was an odd mix at times. There were quite a few instances where we are told again and again the tale of the brother and sister that weakened the Devourer and their two weapons that could be used to defeat him. The Devourer ultimately became this looming evil over the story that is never seen nor felt, instead readers only see glimpes of “The Great Forrest” where the Devourer’s minions the forestborn reside. I had a harder time getting really invested in this story like I did Hodge’s previous novel but I think much of that had to do with the fact that while I was given a rich background with worldbuilding that sounded fascinating – it didn’t seem like what was really important. Actually I wasn’t really sure I felt anything important. Instead there was so much focus on Rachelle’s job, the court tom foolery and Rachelle’s odd romantic triangle between herself, her mentor Erec, the head of the king’s bloodbound, and the king’s bastard son Armand which she is supposed to be both guard and jailer for. Armand is revered as a saint, supposedly having survived the marking by a forestborn and not killing anyone. He is also disabled by the forestborn having lost his hands in punishment for surviving the mark without committing murder. Now it wasn’t exactly a triangle because it is obvious who Rachelle feels for emotionally, but she does still lust after the other one. So maybe it’s not completely fair to call it a triangle…but it still is in my mind.
Searching, this and that, and more court fripperies
Much of the book was spent with Rachelle guarding Armand, or verbally sparring with him or Erec and attending various court functions and the odd bit of swordplay action thrown in along with her evening searches for the weapon she hopes to defeat the Devourer with. It made for a disjointed flow to the reading that was a little tedious at times. I felt like I was moving from one scene to the next where hardly any of them really engaged my interest except the ones where she made actual progress on her search.
All of the pieces are there but …
Essentially, I think many readers who love young adult fantasy will gobble Crimson Bound up. While I for one am sad to say though I found it interesting I was never in love with the story, world or characters even tho the folklore of the world really is fascinating. The romance elements felt a bit forced and the fantasy and folklore wasn’t given as much weight ending with everything never quite coming together for me. If there had been more of a focus on the folklore I think it would have worked better for me. It was still definitely worth a read if you love unique fairy tale retellings.