Book Review: Crimson Bound

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

3/5 stars ***

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Premise- (3/5) I'd read Rosamund Hodge's other book in this related (?) universe a few years ago and liked it, though not as much as I should have considering it combined two of my favorite things: Greco-Roman-esque mythology and fairytales. But I did enjoy it, so I was definitely interested in reading Crimson Bound. This one is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, set not in the Greco-Roman world of Cruel Beauty, but in a setting resembling 18th century France. 

Characters- (3/5) I liked Rachelle, and I thought she was appropriately angsty without being excessively whiny, which in a setup like this, can be difficult. And I liked Armand; I think the unwilling saint character archetype is really interesting. HOWEVER Rachelle and Armand as a duo did not work for me. They were struggling to work together and trust each other and become more than like, begrudging allies and then all of a sudden BAM they were in love. I didn't find it to be well done. I actually thought Erec was the much more interesting character, though his relationship with Rachelle had its own problems. The king was pretty boring as a villain but the main villain was more interesting. Side characters were interesting--particularly the bishop--but sometimes felt irrelevant. 

Plot- (2.5/5) I felt like the plot spent a lot of time dithering in the first half of the novel, particularly with Rachelle's search for the sword. It really felt rather drawn-out and unnecessarily long. Once we got to the main plot, things picked up and I enjoyed it quite a bit more. Some of the pseudo-twists were pretty predictable, but they were integrated well enough into the story. Slow start that dragged a bit for me, but once things got going it kept me reading. 

World- (3.5/5) I was vaguely confused for a while trying to figure out if this was truly supposed to be a different world or just some sort of alternate-history world because the setting very obviously reads Versailles and French aristocracy, from the Hall of Mirrors to the names to the fashions. However, the introduction of magical elements, most notably the Great Forest and its sinister residents, eventually put me in the camp of different world. Either way, I enjoyed the world-building with the Forest and the forestborn and bloodbound. All of that was super interesting. Also interesting was the introduction of religion, which functioned a little differently than I was expecting. 

Writing- (3/5) Not a lot to say here. Writing style was nothing remarkable in my opinion. Nothing too fancy, readable but not a stand-out.  Overall- (3/5) Though the plot meandered to its conclusion rather more slowly than I would have liked, I enjoyed the combination of fairytale elements and the world Crimson Bound was set in. The characters were interesting, but their relationships felt somewhat flat and one-dimensional, which made the romance in particular unsatisfying. I liked the new take on Little Red Riding Hood--and the Girl with No Hands, for that matter, two underused stories when it comes to fairytale retellings. A good read, but not one of my favorites.

Content Warnings: murder, torture, emotional manipulation