“Something my aunt told me once. She said that you always had to choose between the path of needles and the path of pins. When a dress is torn, you know, you can 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.”
Crimson Bound was another beautifully written fairy tale retelling from Hodge, this time taking on Little Red Riding Hood. Having read and loved her Cruel Beauty, I was highly anticipating another wonderfully twisted tale. While I enjoyed Crimson Bound, I did find it darker than expected.
Rachelle was fifteen when she was marked by the forestborn. Within three days she had killed and became one of the bloodbound. Rather than remain in her village for the inevitable punishment, Rachelle fled to the city and swore service to the king in the effort to make up for her crime in some way. Three years later, Rachelle is still fighting but when she discovers the Devourer is set to return and with it the Great Forest and the forestborn that will destory humanity, Rachelle decides that she must act. Rachelle wants to take her revenge on the forestborn that tempted her from straying from the path and her penance for her sins will be stopping the Devourer and forfeiting her life by finding the sword that will kill him.
When Rachelle is assigned as a guard to one of the king’s illegitimate sons, a supposed living saint, no less, Rachelle thinks her mission is compromised. However, Armand just might be more than he appears, in fact, he might be the key to the puzzle Rachelle is unraveling.
There is a lot to like about Hodge’s Crimson Bound and I think it will appeal to readers who are looking for a less conventional young adult read, especially if you’re a fan of Kristin Cashore or Leigh Bardugo. Like Cashore and Bardugo’s heroines, Rachelle is also wonderfully complex and flawed. Rachelle is consumed with self-loathing because of her past actions, but she is also undeniably drawn to that dark part of herself. The fact that Rachelle was so complicated is something that really stands out in Crimson Bound and her actions are understandable and human even if they are not those that one generally expects in a young adult tale.
The theme of “straying from the path” is also well designed in Crimson Bound. The opening chapter when Rachelle strays from her aunt’s instructions was filled with a dark desire for the forbidden and it’s something that continues to be conveyed throughout the novel, and it’s executed very well. The question becomes whether or not the mistake of straying from the path is one that Rachelle will have to pay for with her life. Hodge takes a simple idea and makes is complex and have multiple meanings.
Stylistically and thematically I thought Crimson Bound was pretty much perfect, and as much as I appreciate this for the quality that it is, I can’t say that I loved this one completely and it’s a matter of personal taste rather than anything definite in Crimson Bound. As a reader, I’m not generally drawn to darker themes and while I appreciate the realism in the characters that Hodge drew in Crimson Bound, I think it was this realism that I wasn’t quite in the mood for when I picked up this book. That said, Crimson Bound is undoubtedly a beautifully written, complex fairy tale retelling. It’s a dark tale, but one that I think many readers will enjoy especially because it’s heroine is unconventional.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Rachelle was an excellent, complicated, flawed character whose actions were outside the conventional heroic behaviour that one tends to expect in the young adult genre. Another YA novel that also does this very well is Kristin Cashore. While Graceling is the first in the trilogy, I think fans of Crimson Bound will be especially drawn to Fire and it’s conflicted heroine.
If you liked the “straying from the path” theme, Kate Boorman’s Winterkill might also appeal. While I personally had some issues with the representation of woman, I think the darker themes and the world building will appeal to readers of Hodge’s fairy tale retellings.
Lastly, I also highly recommend Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. Not only is the world wonderful, but the heroine is also very tempted by the dark side. The growth of Alina’s character is exceptional. For more raving see my reviews of book 1, book 2 and book 3.