I received this book for free from Publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 5th, 2015
Genres: Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
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.
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge was an absolutely stellar 2014 debut that soared to the top of my favorites list and never let go. So obviously when I heard about Crimson Bound, my interest was instantly piqued and I became desperate for it. Crimson Bound is a creative and original fantasy, though in my opinion not as great as its predecessor.
I had a bit of trouble getting into Crimson Bound, to be honest. I think that’s to blame on two main things. The first being that my expectations were just so damn high after Cruel Beauty was one of my absolute favorite books last year. I absolutely adored the romance, the main character, and the intricate world building. In Crimson Bound none of those things grabbed me right off the bat. The main character was not as fierce. There wasn’t really a clear ship. And the world building took a LOT of time getting used to – particularly due to the second point.
The second point is that I didn’t know where to place this world. This story starts out in Rocamadour, a very real location in France, where I have been. It’s actually probably my favorite place in France. (Seriously. It’s absolutely stunning.) I had no idea the story took place there, so once I read the name I was confused. So this wasn’t fantasy? This was historical fiction? No. It’s something in between. Hodge has taken parts of French history and extrapolated them, played with them, and made it something completely new. To me, as someone who has been to this place, it was really hard to get used to. My mind was working overtime trying to figure out where the boundaries of reality ended and fantasy began. It was hard, but I recognize that this is a deeply personal thing.
These initial stumbling blocks meant that I became discouraged and demotivated to really continue with Crimson Bound, which was a bit depressing. But after a while it picked up again. The world building is super creative when you get a grasp on it. It didn’t have the same charm as Cruel Beauty, which was heavily influenced by Greek mythology, one of my all time favorite things, and it didn’t have as clear of a link to fairy tales. Supposedly Crimson Bound is inspired by Little Red Riding Hood, but I didn’t see that at all. These were all expectations that I had to let go of. What we’re left with is an intricate fantasy world, where a magical forest is fighting against the humans. It’s super descriptive, vivid, and original, with magic, curses and mystical beings.
The main character, Rachelle, has been cursed to be a bloodbound – a servant of the forest, doomed to kill for them and eventually become an immortal killing machine, a forestborn. She entered into this pact by somewhat of a mistake, due to her naivete – which made it hard to connect with her or feel sympathetic to her plight. She hates her fate, but is too scared to sacrifice her own life. Before she becomes a forestborn, she has agreed to kill in service of the king – to fight back against the forest and defend the humans with her superior speed, strength, and healing abilities. However, the people fear her and aren’t exactly thankful for her existence. Rachelle spends quite a bit of energy hating herself and her situation, and it was tough at first to peel back the layers and see what she truly cared about. She came off as quite emotionless, which is tough for me to get through. By the end of the book, she absolutely gained my respect, but it took quite a while to get there.
There is of course a romance with another sort of love triangle. Hodge did this in Cruel Beauty as well, and there I absolutely didn’t mind because OTP was OTP, and the triangle was kind of part of the plot, made sense to me, and was resolved excellently. In Crimson Bound it’s a little more complicated than that. The two love interests are Armand – one of the king’s bastards, potentially in line for the throne, and supposedly the only one to escape the bloodbound curse – and Erec – the king’s favorite bloodbound. Armand is regarded by the people as a Saint, while Erec as bloodbound is regarded as quite evil. You could see him as a “bad boy”, as he seems to revel in his power, sometimes almost thirsts for blood, and can’t wait to become a forestborn. But he and Rachelle have quite a bit of banter and the challenging dynamic that I tend to fall for. This love triangle took me for a ride though. There were twists and turns that defied all my expectations, but that made it a bit harder to be firmly cheering for either side. As it was, I got a bit annoyed with Rachelle at one moment in particular, when she seemed so easily to flip flop. The romance was interesting, but not my favorite. The resolution was excellent though.
I also experienced some pacing issues in Crimson Bound. Rachelle finds out about a prophecy early on in the book that the mythical Devourer would return and eat the sun and the moon, thus asserting the dominance of the forest over mankind, but the plot kind of stumbles on after that. Rachelle doesn’t trust anyone else with this information because they wouldn’t trust her, and no one believes in the Devourer anymore. (Which I find quite ridiculous, when plenty of people have witnessed attacks by creatures of the forest, but okay.) She decides to try to stop this prophecy on her own, but it’s just slow going. But like all these other elements that I’ve complained about so far, it gets infinitely better in the last third or so of the book. But that time, Rachelle’s quest had captured my heart and I was fully entertained by this creative world. There were exciting battles and creatures to shake things up, and plenty of plot twists to keep me on my toes. The ending was intensely awesome. I just wish it hadn’t taken so long to get there.