Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

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?1

I’m a big fan of retellings/monster mash ups of old classics.  There is just something fun about reliving a favourite story with new twists or perspectives from different authors.

Rachelle is training to be a woodwife, someone who protects the village people from the dark creatures of the forest.  The forest is a dark and tangible creature and is home to dark beings, many of which were once human.  If turned by a forestborn, the human must kill another human and become one of the dark beings, if they do not, they will die.  In an attempt to save her people from the darkness, Rachelle falls victim to a forestborn’s tricks and she succumbs to the darkness by killing someone very close to her.

The forest is getting stronger, daylight is fading and yet there are many who do not believe that the darkness will rise and bring with it the endless night.  Legends of old spoke of a brother and sister who took on the darkness and returned the sun and the moon to earth, but they are gone and the weapons from the past are missing.  With the help of an unlikely companion, Rachelle follows stories of old believed to be a myth about the missing weapons.  With time running out and no other choice, Rachelle must use the help of her enemies and her curse to stop the coming darkness.

Erec is what one would call a prince of darkness.  Embracing the dark gift that he has been giving, his good looks and arrogance don’t gain him any points with Rachelle, though not for a lack of trying, yet Rachelle’s animal instincts can’t help but to be drawn to him.  Erec is that character we know we shouldn’t like but as bad boys go he intrigues us.  His character is very bland for much of the novel hiding behind his arrogance until later on when Hodge delves more into his character and story.

Armand is one of the King’s bastard children and one of the heirs to the throne.  Rumours of the king’s poor health are known throughout the kingdom, yet he refuses to name an heir.  Armand is seen as a saint by the people because he encountered a forestborn though before killing someone or dying, he sacrificed his own hands and remaining human, something that is unheard of.  Given hands made of silver by the King, Armand is carted around by the church to bless the people and hear their prays.  Representing everything that Rachelle hates, the two make an unlikely alliance built on half truths and uncertainty.

The story is very loosely based on elements of the story of Red Riding Hood.  Rather than her grandmother it is her aunt that she is with and instead of one wolf, there are many wolves and many dark creatures.  Instead the story takes more from the Brothers Grimm tale of The Girl Without Hands.

There are many great elements to this story but I think Hodge fell victim to a mistake that all of us writers make, complicating things for impact and complexity.  The old saying, less is more, goes a long way when writing a story, but if you want your story to be seen and heard you are told you have to create something new, something fresh and attention grabbing.  This is where we end up falling down the rabbit hole but without the success of Alice’s Wonderland.

The Beauty and the Beast similarities in Hodge’s Cruel Beauty kept me engaged, but I don’t have the same affinity for the story of Red Riding Hood or The Girl Without Hands to say the same for Crimson Bound.

  1.  Book summary courtesy of Rosamund Hodge’s webpage.
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