My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I swear I’m not biased towards fairy tale retellings!! I SWEAR. This is the second book I’ve read by Rosamund and her storytelling has gotten more advanced. Her concepts were fresh and world-building was stellar in Cruel Beauty and this one is no exception. I especially love that this book is a stand-alone because a single fairy tale is not meant to be stretched out into trilogies. It’s a slight reprieve from the onslaught of trilogy releases and foretold next ‘Hunger Games’ books.
Crimson Bound is a spin on the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood but it doesn’t feel that way throughout the book. The only time that I felt a twinge of that parallelism is during the first couple chapters and near the end. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since seasoned readers are looking for new ideas and are not looking to read a formulaic plot.
- The cover is similar to Cruel Beauty but is still unique and pleasing to the eye.
- One of the strongest assets in the book is the conflict between Rachelle’s actions and intentions. She starts out as a naive little girl who has high hopes and a keen focus on her goals. This is in fact her folly because she dreams so big about defeating the ominous forest/woodspawns and is willing to go the extra length to do so. Within the first few chapters, she is shamed and defeated by her curiosity. By talking to the wolf, of course. Fast forward a couple years and she is now cynical and pursued by her angst. However, I warmed up to Rachelle through her persistence and staunch beliefs in what she believes is right. She is confident in her combat skills, prideful, and of course initially vitriolic upon first encounter towards her love interest. Armand is an interesting case among the romantics archetypes. Typical of many fairy tales, he’s a prince but he’s a bastard prince at that; he also has no hands. Someone cut them off a few months before Rachelle met him and part of the story revolves around how it happened and who did it. This was actually one of the plot twists that I did not see coming. It significantly improved the plot and turned an otherwise docile story into something stark raving mad and rabid. I loved it, as you can see.
- Upon Rachelle’s story, a legend is also layered on to give the readers background information about the origins of the Devourer and the gods people worship. Although it’s corny, the villain’s name works because it’s simple and the Devourer is a mindless abyss rather than a sentient being. Think of Voldemort’s reincarnations in a way.
The legend of Zisa and Tyr who finally bound up the Devourer and restored the sun and moon back to the sky turns out to be frighteningly real in this book. Zisa and Tyr are siblings who’re are offered up one as a sacrifice to the Devourer and the other to join the Devourer’s forces. Zisa is driven by her love for her brother to find ways to free him; her determination is the original story of courage, wit, and sacrifice.
ZISA CARRIED THE BONES TO A GREAT YEW TREE. Beneath its roots there was a cave, and in the cave there was a forge, and chained to the forge was a man with a smile like dried blood and glowing embers.
This was Volund, the crippled smith. He had once loved a forestborn maiden, and so much did he delight her that for seven years she stayed beside him. But one night she heard the hunting horns of her people and rose to follow them. Before she had taken three steps, he struck her dead.
In recompense, the forestborn hamstrung him, chained him, and made him undying as themselves, an everlasting slave to craft their swords and spears and arrows.
“Old man,” said Zisa, “I must have two swords made out of these bones.”
“Little girl,” said Volund, “I must obey the forestborn, but not you.”
“And when I am one of them, I will remember you said that,” she replied.
He laughed like a rusty hinge. “And much I have left for anyone to take from me. But you, I think, have the whole world to lose.” He looked her up and down. “I will make you a bargain. Give me the delights of your proud body twice, and I will make you two swords such as the world will never see again.”
There was nothing she would not do for her brother.
It serves as a backbone to Rachelle’s story when it shows how far she is willing to go to defeat the Devourer. Why does she want to defeat it? Are her intentions noble enough? As the story gradually continues, her purpose for seeking and destroying the Devourer shifts as she goes through revelations about the evil. It is an arduous struggle and I empathized with her anger, self-hate, and impatience in search for the two legendary swords. The legends played a huge role in enriching the world-building and it drew up great comparisons between the deeds of Zisa and those of Rachelle.
- The writing is artfully arranged most of the time but there are moments that I got confused due to rough transitions. Within one line, the author ends the day before I even realize it. There would be anecdotes about what Rachelle goes through but they are written clumsily because they seem stringed together.
Writing a sequence of events is difficult but I did not feel a sense of time when the story jumped whole days or skipped a week nonchalantly with a sentence or two. This threw off the pacing of the book because I knew with effort and better editing, the storyline will coalesce well. Nonetheless, this is only a minor grievance that did not detract me from wholeheartedly investing in the mystery.
- Rachelle and Amelie’s friendship is sort of a poor excuse when it’s formed on the basis of a You-saved-my-life-now-let’s-be-friends. It slightly laughable but it reminds me of Shrek and Donkey. I’m not saying friendships can’t be formed this way because it totally can and friends have been made through less efforts. However, this is where the affinity ends because they literally have nothing else in common. Amelie does Rachelle’s makeup which is sweet but that’s about it.
I understand that this friendship is proof that not all humans hate bloodbounds. Bloodbounds are those who used to be human but have killed a human in order to survive the curse placed upon them by a forestborn. (All you need to know about a forestborn is that they are minions of the Devourer. But it’s more complicated and you’ll understand once you read the book. Read it!) This murder is what merits the hate they get from humans. This is seriously one of the most underdeveloped relationships I’ve seen in a book; it’s literally the same thing as Primrose Everdeen and Katniss Everdeen. Rachelle and Katniss are both willing to go to strenuous lengths to preserve Amelie/Primrose’s innocence and safety. A noble feat that alas fails…what? Did I just say something? Please ignore that if you haven’t read the books lol
Rachelle looked at her. She noticed the careful way that Amélie leaned toward her, closing the distance between them but not ever touching. She noticed that Amélie was biting her lip, the way she always did when she was nervous. She noticed that this was, in fact, her only friend.
She still couldn’t tell her anything. Maybe it was foolish, but she had spent three years trying to shelter Amélie. She couldn’t bear to undo that now.
This reeks heavily of motherly authority and ideals of ignorance is bliss. Hasn’t anyone learned that confiding in your best friend is ultimately the only way to go if you wish to keep the friendship alive? Although I do think Rachelle is great as a character, she makes blunders and I forgive her so other characters should just as well forgive her.
Readers may not like Crimson Bound if they are looking for something that adheres closely to their beloved fairy tales. It is a dark tale that speaks volumes to today’s teens and the proclivities of the 21st century. If you’re ready for what’s next, I recommend this book. Otherwise, just stick to the classically sweet Beauty by Robin McKinley.