I loved Rosamund Hodge's first book, Cruel Beauty, which was a unique young adult novel inspired in part by "Beauty and the Beast." She proved she was quite masterful at creating a story world that was very different, yet still had a familiar feel to it. So I decided to pick up her next book, Crimson Bound, which is based on Red Riding Hood with a bit of the Girl With No Hands.
The heroine of Crimson Bound, Rachelle, has had anything but an easy life, and she's not even out of her teens yet. This has made her into a very strong character, but still relatable, still with the heart of a teen that readers can relate to. The book takes place in an alternative France, which lends itself very well to the story. There is some strife between Church and pagan traditions, Church and the monarchy, etc, and it makes it easy to envision the story setting and the styles. Hodge weaves details in very well, and I was able to see everything as it unfolded in my mind.
Something this book accomplishes well that others do not is to have the main character have a female friend that she is not in competition with for either status or love interests. Both of these young women are a comfort to each other, both are supportive of each other, and they are genuine friends. I found this to be refreshing.
The pacing and storyline of the book kept me turning pages, and I thought the intrigue element was handled well. Rachelle is searching for two swords to defeat her foe with, and the location of one of them especially had me guessing until the end. When the truth is revealed, one can see all the clues were there all along, but enough was withheld that it was very convincing. I loved the concept of the forestborn and the bloodbound, and the way the Forest worked.
I would say the one thing that didn't exactly work for me was the love interest triangle. I liked the characters, I thought that the author captured the friendship with one of them especially well, but when it came to the romance angle, it just didn't feel particularly convincing. I did love the end where one character is lost, and the way the main character reacted to it. I thought it was again, refreshing. The relationships are complex and not black and white, but there was just something missing. However, this did little to lessen my enjoyment of the book.
Crimson Bound is a book best enjoyed when you have a chunk of time to enjoy it, because you won't want to stop. There is enough mystery and intrigue to keep the pages turning, yet at the same time you won't want to leave the intricate and fascinating world Rosamund Hodge has created!
Summary of Crimson Bound:
An exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption inspired by the classic fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood,” from the author of Cruel Beauty.
When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village. But she was also reckless—straying from the forest path in pursuit 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 a vain effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her hunt for the legendary sword that might save their world. Together, they navigate the opulent world of the courtly elite, where beauty and power reign and no one can be trusted. And as they become unexpected allies, they discover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. Within a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?
About Rosamund Hodge:
Rosamund Hodge grew up as a homeschooler in Los Angeles, where she spent her time reading everything she could lay hands on, but especially fantasy and mythology. She got a BA in English from the University of Dallas and an MSt in Medieval English from Oxford, and she now lives in Seattle with seven toy cats and a plush Cthulhu. Visit her on the web at http://www.rosamundhodge.net/
Melanie R. Meadors is an author of fantasy where heroes don't always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She is a blogger at The Once and Future Podcast, a professional author publicist, and a dabbling fiber artist. She studied both physics and astronomy at Northern Arizona University. You can find her at her website, melaniermeadors.com, on Facebook, and Twitter, @melaniermeadors.