Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Title: Crimson Bound
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Genre: fantasy, retelling
Series: None
Pages: 448
Published: Expected May 5, 2015
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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

Mother said,
"Come what may,
Follow the path
And never stray."

Just so, little girl-
Any path.
So many worth exploring.
Just one would be so boring.
And look what you're ignoring…1

Rachelle strayed off the forest path when she was fifteen. She thought she could outsmart the monster she met, but instead she ended up marked, bloodbound to serve the Devourer of the sun and moon. Rachelle pledges her service to the king instead, fighting the monsters that cross over from the Devourer’s realm, the Great Forest that exists alongside her world. She knows she’s destined to end up a forestborn, the same as her maker, and thus beyond redemption, but when she finds out the Devourer is going to return by summer’s end, she’s willing to try to do one good thing in the world.

Instead, she’s assigned to play babysitter to a false saint, the king’s bastard, Armand, who supposedly met a forestborn and survived marked but not bound. This is hogwash, of course, as Rachelle knows what it means to be marked. Armand lost his hands to the Forest, becoming a saint and martyr to the common people. As rebellion swirls, it’s Rachelle’s job to keep him from being assassinated or raised up.

Like Hodge’s first book, Crimson Bound is a lot more than a fairy tale retelling. Rachelle’s story starts very similarly to Red Riding Hood, true, but it ends with far more in common with Persephone. While Armand is a spin on The Girl Without Hands, there’s also a healthy dose of Hansel and Gretel in Tyr and Zisa, legendary twins who trapped the Devourer. Instead of feeling disjointed or derivative, Hodge’s world building and magic system blend them all into something new and surprising.

Unfortunately, also like Cruel Beauty, there are some plot holes that are hard to overlook, particularly in regards to the difference between the bloodbound and the forestborn they become. There’s also a love triangle that I found less than effective.

Hodge’s writes amazing, complex and unlikeable women that I can’t help falling in love with, and Rachelle is no exception. While the love interest is no Ignifex, the world is tighter, the magic more focused, and the action well integrated. The influences are diverse and blend together to build a truly one of a kind experience. Cruel Beauty was one of my best books of last year, but Hodge has outdone herself in her sophomore effort.

1. Sondheim, Stephen. Into The Woods. 1987





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