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CRIMSON BOUND comes out May 5, 2015!
"You always had to choose between the path of needles and the path of pins. When a dress is torn, you know, you can just pin it up, or you can take the time to sew it together. That's what it means. The quick and easy way, or the painful way that works...
...Rachelle wanted to sew the world back to safety, if she must use her own bones for needles."
When I first began reading Rosamund Hodge's debut novel CRUEL BEAUTY, it took me a while to get into the author's world. They have a paranormal feeling, but they aren't paranormal books, precisely. I put the book down, then decided to give the author a second try during Fairy Tale Fortnight last year. I reviewed her novella GILDED ASHES and suddenly I understood the world and where she was going. Suddenly, I wanted to give CRUEL BEAUTY a second try. And you know what? I loved it! (I wish I could share my review but...I can't find it and I am 98% sure I wrote it last year, so Blogger must have eaten that post. I'm so sorry!!!) The way Hodge blended fairy tales and mythology was thrilling, and when I heard that she was writing another fairy tale, I immediately wanted it despite knowing nothing about it. Now, after having read CRIMSON BOUND, I still love the way Hodge can twine so much together and create a living, breathing story that works so well against all the mish-mashed elements you wouldn't think could work.
CRIMSON BOUND blends together The Story of Grandmother (A more obscure version of Little Red Riding Hood that you can read a retelling of via today's In Case You Missed It post!) with The Juniper Tree, The Girl Without Hands (The Girl with Silver Hands), and other lore from obscure tales and myths that will delight fans familiar with them. I was intrigued from page one before the story officially began:
THIS STORY BEGINS WITH ENDLESS NIGHT AND infinite forest; with two orphaned children, and two swords made of broken bone.
It has not ended yet.
It has not ended yet.
(pg. 6, US e-ARC edition)
Then, on the very next page--and we're still in the prologue here--the first sentence mentions the path of pins and the path of needles. Whaaaat, a retelling of The Story of Grandmother!? I sat up and took notice. Within minutes, I'd read the first several pages and already posted eleven snippets to Goodreads, which is very rare for me! THEN Rachelle, our "Little Red," runs into the "Wolf," and his utterance of "Good afternoon, little girl," reminded me of the song "Hello, Little Girl" from Into the Woods. I was hooked. So hooked!
Rachelle is an apprentice woodwife. She knows not to stray from the path and be lulled to her demise by the forestborn, a fate worse than death. One day, she is too trusting and a forestbound takes advantage and turns her into his kin. Rachelle refuses to become a beast and aimlessly kill for the rest of her days; instead, she promises revenge, vowing to somehow destroy the Devourer. She swears fealty to the king as his Bloodbound and works to serve justice and protect the people of the realm. It's a constant struggle to resist the call of the forest and keep her mind intact, especially after being assigned as the bodyguard of one of the king's illegitimate children, Armand Vareilles. Armand is treated like a saint by his people, for it is said that he somehow survived an encounter with a Forestbound unmarked save for the loss of his arms. Rachelle doesn't have time to play baby-sitter when "Before the summer sun makes its last valiant gasp, our lord will smile and awaken and eat the light from the sky" (page 25, US e-ARC edition). Time is running out, and if Rachelle can't unearth the weapon of legend said to be the Devourer's downfall, all humanity is doomed.
Hodge's world-building is exceptional; there's so much depth that it's easy to visualize Rachelle's surroundings and the dangers of the Forest. Her character development is also superb. Rachelle is such a complex character, and her motivations range from selfish to selfless. She's messed up in all the ways that a girl in her situation would be, but she has managed to maintain a purity and focus that has kept her out of the clutches of the Forestborn who cursed her for years now. even secondary characters have depth and purpose. There's a bit of a love triangle, but it doesn't bother me the way triangles normally do because it's non-traditional and works well in the story's context, largely due to how well-built and constructed everything is. Romance also isn't the story's main focus, and everything is balanced and not overdone. Hodge takes readers through many unexpected twists and turns and creates a gripping, compelling story that reads like an original fairy tale or mythological tale that's hard to put down.