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 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 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 the two 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?
Rating: 4 stars
I have to admit, when I saw the title–CRIMSON BOUND–I thought it’s a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, but it’s so much more. The story is fascinating and compelling, though some places in the book got a bit slow.
Rachelle is being trained by her Aunt Leonie to be a woodwife, one who weaves charms to protect the humans from the forestborn. The forestborn are supernatural creatures who prey on humans, seeking to turn them ultimately into new forestborns, ready to serve their god, the Devourer. Once marked by a forestborn, the human has to kill or die, and in killing, he becomes bloodbound…and the day will come when he will become forestborn himself…waiting for the day when the Devourer will come once again to devour the sun and the moon and plunge the world into darkness.
The worldbuilding is superb. While there are elements of several fairy tales, the author wove her own myth and created a brand new fairy tale/legend that her characters relied upon. For those interested, I was able to detect the following fairy tale elements: the little girl walking all by herself through the forest to her aunt’s home (Little Red Riding Hood), the brother and sister who were the witch’s captives (Hansel and Gretel), and finding a door that is above the sun and below the moon (reminded me of East of the Sun and West of the Moon).
There is also the Great Forest, and while it does not take center stage, yet the way it influenced the characters, the way Rachelle both longed for and despised its power, it could be a character in itself. What is the Great Forest? As far as I understand, it’s like a force, a power over the bloodbound and forestborn, at the same time that they can draw from its might to help them, for example, in fighting.
So, because Rachelle didn’t heed her aunt, she became bloodbound, though she used her skills and power to help humans, like fighting off woodspawn and other evil things. Three years later, she was asked by the king to guard his son, Armand, a man she despises because of what she thinks he is–a liar and a fraud. When she came upon a clue to the door, the door beyond which lay one of the swords that could defeat the Devourer, she convinces Armand to help her, and in so doing, she learns things about him that made her think he may not be what she thought him to be. Even as feelings blossomed between them, betrayals and misunderstandings arose between them. What would happen in the final battle with the Devourer?
Rosamund Hodge takes the reader on a fantastic journey, through myths and tales of magic, and twists and turns that take the story in a different direction. Though I probably should have seen it coming, as there are hints, after all. CRIMSON BOUND is more the tale of Rachelle’s growth and development, while Armand serves more in the role of her sidekick. While there is some attraction and romance between the two of them, I do wish there’s more romantic development, but the lack of such made the ending (in respect to the romance) more believable, in a sense.
But while Armand doesn’t take center stage as much as Rachelle, I like his dialogue–what he said, the way he said it. I thought it gave him a uniqueness such that he stands out as a character.
All in all, CRIMSON BOUND is worth a read, especially if you like fantasy and fairy tale retellings.