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.
If you had any doubts that Rosamund Hodge could top her debut, CRUEL BEAUTY, then throw them out now. CRIMSON BOUND is a stunning sophomore novel that I couldn't put down.
CRIMSON BOUND is a retelling of both Little Red Riding Hood and The Girl With No Hands. I'm unfamiliar with the latter, but just like with CRUEL BEAUTY, CRIMSON BOUND is influenced by fairytales, but not a direct retelling. Little Red Riding Hood is more the catalyst of the story, rather than the entire plot. Hodge excels at taking fairytales and turning them on their heads. What I loved most about what she did with this story is the fact that Rachelle is both Riding Hood and the wolf.
The world-building in this novel is phenomenal. There are so many layers to the world. In between each of Rachelle's chapters is a story of the last time the Devourer was held back, told piece by piece until the all is finally revealed. I loved this mythology so much. Then there's the terror of the Devourer, a true horror that creeps ever closer to ending all light. His followers, the forestborn, are cruel and frightening.
Every character in the story is complex, with motives of their own. There are all these different paths that slowly converge as the choices everyone makes brings them to the climax. I enjoy a story where characters aren't simply black-and-white, and Hodge provides them in spades here.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I felt the romance was a little rushed. Rachelle and Armand go from hatred to love very quickly. For me personally, I prefer a slow-build romance. That said, fans of romance will have plenty to swoon over here, and ultimately, I did enjoy their romantic scenes together. They make each other vulnerable in unexpected ways, so their scenes have a lot of tension running beneath them.
The Final Verdict:
CRIMSON BOUND is a dark, captivating story with a compelling heroine and a richly-imagined fantasy world.
Before I get to the deepest part of my review, the reason why I partly consider this as a book analysis, I want to point out a few things that I like about the book. The first thing is that it is action-packed. Right from the beginning. A lot of combatting and dueling are involved, which provides the book more intensity, thus more engaging. I also like how religion is incorporated in the story. The belief of the Devourer acts as a metaphor to the belief of the Devil. The characters in the story are either believers of God or the Devourer—believers of the idea that either God created heaven and earth, or some other mythological persona have placed the sun and the moon and the stars in the sky.
The second thing that I really like about the book is Rachelle's character. I like that she's so witty and bright and sarcastic (mostly around Erec and Armand), and she profoundly epitomizes the essence of what it is like to have girl power. There are some parts in the book when her actions made me somewhat iffy, but I like how she's so determined. When it seems like nobody cares that the Devourer will rise and consume up the light, she's the only one who appears to be strongly determined to actually save humanity. "Rachelle wanted to sew the world back to safety, if she must use her own bones for needles." Her strong intention is purely driven by her fondness and love for all the people around her, especially her friend Amélie. She cares for them enough that she's willing to sacrifice her life for the sake of the world's safety.
The third thing that I like is Erec d'Anjour's character. I swear, he is purposely written in a way that makes you want to fall in love with him—to root for him. He is airy and just so full of himself, and yet he is one adorable fictional character. He is that kind of person you'll want to turn to for some life or love advice because you know for sure you're going to get a reality check due to his bluntness, his openness, his extraordinary confidence. In fact, he is so charmingly egotistical that his jocular personality can as well be taken as nothing but a complete act of deception.
This is the part where my analysis begins: the contrast between Erec d'Anjour and Armand Vareilles. Perhaps the patent difference between the two men in Rachelle's life is Hodge's way of foreshadowing the oncoming plot twist (which, by the way, gave me too much emotion). Rachelle has more history with Erec, making them closer to one another, therefore, it is easier to envision how their relationship is like. However, Rachelle hasn't known Armand for a long time, so they have a certain mystery about them. Rachelle and Armand being somewhat strangers to each other intrigue me because they embark on this mission together to find the secret door to the Great Forest without knowing each other really well. It makes me wonder how they will do it, how their different personalities will clash—one a jailer and a prisoner and one a sinner and a saint.
Before I fully explain my point, I will note another dissimilarity between Erec and Armand: Armand knows when to stop talking, while Erec never seem to know when to close his superior mouth. This may seem like a minor observation, but Hodge's distinction foreshadows the plot twist in a way that Erec's loquaciousness and charisma and conceitedness seem to be a complete parallel to Rachelle's forestborn's personality from the beginning of the book. (Hmm . . . )
And this leads us to the plot twist. Rachelle has more history with Erec, as mentioned before, which makes perfect sense because of the fact that Erec is her forestborn, the one who marked her a bloodbound, and the one who lured her into killing her aunt in order to spare her life. This is the part of the book that convinced me to up my rating. Even before the main revelation has been unveiled, the book has truly kept me on the edge. Take my word for this: your judgement will be tested. Because there are just a lot of twists and turns that will make you uncertain of who to really trust. You'll be doubting every character.
The book is highly adventurous, I tip my hat to Hodge for that, but I would have liked it better had the search for the secret door to the Great Forest did not occur in one setting. I would have felt the book more if Hodge allowed the quest to find Zisa's sword to happen in a setting where Rachelle and Armand would have to travel to places in search of more clues that would eventually lead them to the legendary sword. Maybe then, Rachelle and Armand would have had the time to reasonably develop their affection toward one another.
Speaking of which, I don't really like the way Rachelle fell in love with Armand. It is so abrupt and it came out of the blue. Personally, I feel like she should've at least liked him first—perhaps she went through that phase—but the revelation just seemed so . . . sudden.
Because of the number of surprises this book contains, I will actually recommend this one—in fact, I will highly recommend it. The fantasy genre has been my favorite lately, so I truly enjoyed this one, despite a couple of the things that I did not like about it. The element of fickleness is constantly present throughout the book, and that's mostly what kept my high rating. However, I can't really say that this is my favorite.
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge is a fantasy/young adult novel that combines the classical tale of Little Red Riding Hood and Girl With No Hands (gender-swapped). It is an intensely suspenseful and riveting tale that will surely leave you gasping.