Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

So full disclosure: The lovely Wendy Darling from over at The Midnight Garden asked me if I wanted to be part of the blog tour for Crimson Bound over at Cuddlebuggery and I jumped at the chance. So the link below will take you to the blog tour post at which Rosamund talks about strong heroines. (Stephanie is the one who should get credit for structuring and formatting the post since I didn’t do it properly.) Anyway, I received an ARC from the publisher and I figured I’d post the review of the novel here so our readers could share in on the excitement of the blog tour. (Also, there’s a giveaway so you should totally check out and enter because the prizes are awesome.)

Blog Tour Post over at Cuddlebuggery.

Crimson-Bound-Rosamund-Hodge

Hardcover, 448 pages
Expected publication: May 5th 2015 by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
Source: ARC from Publisher

“In all your life, your ownly choice,” Aunt Leonie said to her once, “is the path of needles or the path of pins.”

Rachelle remembered that, the day that she killed her.

Before I start my review, I must say that the covers of both Rosamund’s novels (Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound), in my opinion, fail to properly convey the story contained within the pages. It is far too easy to look at the novels and be dismissive of them as books that pay more attention to the romance than to character/world/storybuilding when that simply is not true. Sure there is romance but the attention given to the other elements is equal and as intense.

I was under the misconception that Crimson Bound is a companion novel or a sequel to Cruel Beauty when in fact Crimson Bound has nothing to do with Cruel Beauty apart from being a fairytale and written by the same author. Oh and they both contain deeply flawed but fascinating protagonists.

Crimson Bound, in case it is not evident from the title, tackles the Red Riding Hood tale a bit. Obviously it adds a lot more to the tale, so much so, in fact that the fairytale is just one aspect of the novel. Rachelle, the protagonist, is an apprentice white witch (not the words used in the book), learning to fight against the dangers wrought by the dangerous Great Forest in which supernatural creatures roam. In Rachelle’s world, the forest contains beings called the forestborn who have sold their souls to someone called the Devourer (not someone I want to meet, ever). These forestborn mark unsuspecting human beings and make them one of the bloodbound. Once marked, the bloodbound have three day to kill someone or they will be killed most painfully. Now Rachelle meets a forestborn, the Wolf character, and though she is quite confident in her ability to remain safe while with the Wolf, things happen and she becomes marked. And well, she makes a choice.

The choice she makes shames her deeply and she vows to spend her life trying to find a way to kill the Devourer or die trying. She runs away to the city where other bloodbound like her have found work as the king’s guards. There she is given the unenviable task of guarding the king’s son, Armand, whom she loathes. I must say, I was surprised by Armand. He is not described as overly handsome; he’s not particularly charming or witty. But for all that he is not, he’s still a very very wonderful character and one I liked quite a bit. Now back to why Rachelle hates him so much. See, Armand was marked just as Rachelle was and he was given the same choice but he, instead of giving in to the choice, refused to kill anyone. Even when his hands were cut off. Yep, the prince is a disabled character and yet, arguably one of the strongest characters in the novel. For Rachelle, Armand is everything she failed to be. He is the reminder of her weakness–her choice. Yet, with the devourer dude getting ready to rise again, Rachelle has no choice but to work with Armand to find a sword that will end the villain.

The novel is really well done. The characters are all complex and flawed and so wonderful to read about. Rachelle is so strong but at her core is this brittleness that warns that she could shatter any moment. She is looking so hard for redemption even when she believes that she doesn’t deserve it. I liked the romance subplots; there are no aspersions cast on Rachelle’s sexuality or choices. The narrative breathes freely without getting clogged up with romantic melodrama and there is an acceptance that sometimes some things are bigger than who loves who.

I also found the attitude towards nature fascinating. I once wrote a somewhat dubious essay about the changing attitudes towards nature in contemporary children’s literature, how it’s viewed as something far more dangerous than it used to be and while my thesis is still shaky, I do feel the portrayal of the Great Forest supports it. The Great Forest is a character in its own right and Rachelle’s realization that the forest isn’t evil on its own but shaped by the people/things/creatures in it is wonderfully satisfying.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Crimson Bound. It’s well written, has wonderful characters and presents food for thought. I recommend it.