Author: Rosamund Hodge
Release: May 5th 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Retellings, YA
Companion novels: Cruel Beauty, Gilded Ashes
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.
It was really hard to think about what to rate this, because I genuinely enjoyed this book and it was really addictive, I honestly couldn't put it down once I was swept up in the story. However, most of the time the plot took turns I didn't agree with nor like, so in that respect, it wasn't the best thing ever, sadly. It was that, ultimately, that kind of ruined the experience for me, because the whole time I was just grinding my teeth in annoyance.
Still, let's talk about the things I actually liked first. For one, there's the writing, which was absolutely phenomenal. From the first page on I was struck by how melodic and beautiful it was, and it only continued from there on out. I don't remember Hodge's writing being this polished back in Cruel Beauty, so she really made a lot of progress in that respect. It set the perfect haunting, dark atmosphere for this kind of book and I am in love with it.
“Rachelle wanted to sew the world back to safety, if she must use her own bones for needles.”
Next up is the world-building, which was phenomenal as well. Hodge included little snippets of the Red Riding Hood fairytale, but really, to say this is a retelling would be insulting the book because it is so much more than just that. This takes a whole new spin on and breathes new life into it. Though never really explained in detail, the story about the Devourer, the forestborn and bloodbound was absolutely creative and interesting, and I think the mystery shrouded around the tale was even more alluring, so I don't even mind still not really knowing the first thing about it. There were some passages scattered throughout the book that told the actual legend, but they never interrupted the flow of Rachelle's story, but rather added a nice touch.
And then, of course, the characters. I loved loved loved Rachelle. She was brave, smart and resourceful. She did what she had to do, even if she didn't want to, and she kicked ass doing it. I seriously have a tiny woman crush on her. Hodge created such an original, badass character with her who is so different than her Nyx from Cruel Beauty. Rachelle made some tough decisions in her life and spent the whole time trying to repent on her own terms and in her own way. She was selfless in that, but not the stupid kind of altruism that makes you endanger your own safety. And that's probably what I liked best about her, because it made her exactly my kind of heroine. The one that kills mercilessly and in cold blood if need be, that helps people if she can, and still has feelings.
“I knew you lived,” her mother said. “Any daughter of mine would be ruthless enough.”
Another character that really grew on me was, in fact, Erec. I don't know why, but his cold arrogance always seemed like it had a whole other side to it, which I guess isn't totally wrong. Anyway, while I was reading the book I really wanted to find out more about him because he is constantly held in this mysterious, cliché light that doesn't tell you a lot about any of his other sides or his past.
Plus, and this is where it goes into the "What I disliked" territory, I thought Erec was a good match for Rachelle in the end. Certainly not the best, no doubt about that, but they probably could have been good for each other. What I like in couples is when they encourage each other to be stronger for themselves, and when they challenge and tease each other for the sole purpose of achieving exactly that. So while his methods were a little too over the top sometimes (like publicly humiliating her in front of the whole court), I at least could appreciate the thought behind them, and thought they came from a good place. I still think so. And I still think they have tons of chemistry. Another thing I really loved about their "relationship", especially after the reveal near the end, was that Erec never forced her into anything, but gave her a choice <spoiler> up until then, anyway.</spoiler> In the end, I simply loved the idea of this power couple that could potentially burn the whole world down and that would always be supporting, inspiring and motivating each other. Alas.
And she realized that he did love her. With all that remained of his heart, he loved her.
“So let me try and fail, and then we'll go home together.”
He stared at her a moment longer, then laughed softly. “I wouldn't love you if you were any weaker,” he said, and let go of her.
And this is exactly why I didn't like why Hodge paired Rachelle up with Armand. It was obvious when she was assigned to him as his bodyguard, because that is such a cliché and stereotyped, obvious move. But I had truly hoped that they would just become friends or something, nothing more, since that would have probably been the only surprising scenario in that case. However, they quickly, and I repeat quickly fell in love almost reminiscent of a type of insta-love, and I hated it. They had no chemistry, and while they had things in common, yes, I didn't see how those could be enough to tie them together romantically. Not when Rachelle thought he was a liar and a fraud and despised him for it, and when Armand always feared for his life in her presence. Also, even after they she realizes she has feelings for him, Rachelle still has thoughts like these:
“He should be weeping with fear. He was weak. Prey. Captive. She should kill him, crush him, master him. She thought this quite calmly, with an icy relish as she imagined his blood seeping between her fingers.”
I'm sorry, but am I really to believe that this sounds like a healthy, equal relationship? No, it makes me shudder in fear to think of it. Honestly, it was a nice surprise that, for once, the man was the unequal one here and not the woman, but seriously ... They weren't on the same level at all, they mistrusted each other and all that. And still, you want me to believe they'd develop feelings for one another during that? Fuck no. Not to mention the whole drama that ensues because of this one specific thing, ahem, is so completely unnecessary. It's a simple misunderstanding that could have been cleared off the table with one fucking conversation afterwards. But no, drama galore! Fuck that shit.
Another thing that really annoyed me was that Amélie was so completely brushed under the rug. She doesn't even appear until like 20% into the book, but is then labeled as "Rachelle's best (and only) friend)" and Rachelle can then just easily take her with her to Château de Lune? Just like that? ...Alrighty, then. But even at the château, Amélie barely plays a major role and their friendship is a mere skeleton of a plot device. A plot device to further Rachelle's need for vengeance and bloodlust, but they rarely have any meaningful, substantial interactions during the book, but at the end they're made out to have such a powerful, strong lady friendship. Don't get me wrong here, I love powerful, strong lady friendships. The thing bugging me here is that Hodge is collecting the laurels for this one without doing shit to properly build that relationship up and develop it. We get one backstory that happened in the past, where Rachelle saved Amélie from woodspawn, and Amélie puts makeup on Rachelle nowadays, but am I really to believe that that's all that is making up their seemingly strong bond?
“No,” said Rachelle. “I'm not. That night we met — when I was too late to save your father, I thought that at least I got to save you. But it was really you who saved me.”
I would have loved to believe this. I really, really would. But there was nothing to back those words up, unfortunately.
In the end, I can't say I disliked the whole book. Some aspects of it, yes, but it truly was a wild ride and damn entertaining. Like I said, once I really got into it, I couldn't put the book down at all. Despite everything, I would definitely recommend reading this book, especially if you liked Cruel Beauty. Or even if you didn't like that one, maybe you will this one. Just give it a try.