by Rosamund Hodge
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (May 5, 2015)
Amazon | Goodreads
An exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood and the extravagant court of Versailles, from the author of Cruel Beauty. A doomed warrior and the king's most notorious bastard must join forces to defeat a dark evil in this gorgeously intricate fantasy—perfect for fans of An Ember in the Ashes and A Court of Thorns and Roses.
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 a vain effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her hunt for the legendary sword that might save their world. Together, they navigate the opulent world of the courtly elite, where beauty and power reign and no one can be trusted. And as the two become unexpected allies, they discover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic . . . and a love that may be their undoing. Within a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?
I loved the cover of this book the first time I saw it, and swore that I’d surely love the story just as much as the story’s eye-candy package. But the inside wasn’t the same as the outside. I mean, it was bright, blinding, and laybrinth-y. But I am so confused about whether I liked Crimson Bound or not.
Why’s that? Well, for the sake of all you good peep’s out there reading this post, let me tell you:
What I didn’t Like
I just hated the first half. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word. I enjoyed the first chapter or two, and even thought the first sentences were stellar. But then I stopped liking the story.
There was action, true. After all, the main plot is a girl with supernatural abilities fending off the impending demise of the world as they know it, all while a rebellion is brewing and we don’t know if it is the Bishop, the bastard, or the mistress behind it. But even with this great storyline and all these fight scenes, I felt like there was no soul.
I was bored.
In addition, I pretty much couldn’t stand anything the heroine, Rachelle, did. She was an idiot as far as I was concerned. She had major guilt issues, made stupid decisions, and had random weird uncontrollable urges of lust. But what bothered me more than anything was her a major psychological syndrome, LMLIMOLSFBAAEIWIPTABIATSSIWC, also known as “let me live in my own little self-focused ball and assume everyone is what I pegged them as because I am that smart so I won’t communicate.”
She just annoyed the crap out of me.
The whole first part of the book I wasn’t sure I liked the religious aspect, either. There was the typical darkness and evil found in most fantasy like this one--which doesn’t really bother me as the goal is to stop it. This story had a lot of Christian, especially Catholic, undertones too. I couldn’t help but think some people with that background might be offended.
In addition, there is all this confusing mumble-jumble, with weird disturbing fairytale myths in the background. I usually love stuff like this, but because of a lot of funky pronoun use, people being dead and not dead, or possessing other bodies, and shrinking swords--heck, I just couldn’t piece it together (and too often I couldn’t figure out who was talking). I gave up on this gothic dreamlike storyline running throughout the novel.
So quit reading the book a couple times, and really didn’t think I would pick it back up. But, I did pick it up again, twice.
After all, it was just laying there, its cover looking so pretty.
What I Did Like
Then the last third of the book hit and the book went from a rating of two, to a rating of six. Everything finally flowed and it was just great.
I seems the author spent the whole first two-thirds of the book just prepping us for this finale, where all this unrelatable build-up was drawn together. And not in a neat bow, but a fast-paced, action-packed whirlwind--a blur between myth and fantasy and coups and kingdoms and the spawn of The Forest.
It was pretty awesome and I loved it. I am still trying to figure it out in retrospect.
Also, in the latter part of the book, all the religiousness pulled together into something that I thought worked after all (for myself and those I previously thought might be offended), and might even have parallels in life.
I loved the blatant theme, Rachelle’s continual desperation for penance, and seeing how she works through that. But there were redemptive themes that went beyond just this, helping readers see the beauty and bravery in brokenness, and defeating desire, while still being a human of desire. And I couldn’t help appreciate the sacrifice, the healing, and the awareness of a richer meaning attributed to the “Great Forest.” I am still unclear on most of it, or even if the author meant us to find meaning within it. But I sorta think she did want some of this to sink in, and I like what I was left with.
So does that mean Crimson Bound was a great book or a bad book with a pretty cool ending?
Maybe these other points will help you figure it out:
I wasn’t actually into any of the guys for a long time, so that was probably another reason why it was hard for me to stick to the book.
The guys are interesting. Paraphrasing another random Goodreads reviewer, what type of author makes a love interest with missing hands? (No offense to all you hand-less people out there). This type of character--one with a major physical handicap--is probably a healthy addition to broaden the horizons of us readers. I eventually got over this (which I assume is the point--that we can/should get over it) but the lack-of-hands didn’t help me instantly be attracted to and fall-in-love with this character. And it didn’t help that Rachelle despised this guy for the first part of the book. I point this out because it is a potential reason readers might find it hard to engage in the story.
And then the other guy, I liked him and rightfully despised him. I’m guessing you will too.
Overall, I didn’t like feeling so uncommitted to either of the guys until the very last part of the book. That is the heroine’s job, to feel unsure, not mine as the reader.
Something else in the romance category that bothered me I think can be attributed to the writing style. One minute Rachelle is all over someone I didn’t even think she liked at the time, the next she is on the other guy (who I also didn’t think she liked at the time).
I don’t have a problem with Rachelle’s conflicted feelings. I was just like--whoa, wait a minute--I thought you were going to say that you were going to tie-your-shoe, I wasn’t expecting you to kiss him! I just think the author could have done a much better job with some of these scenes, so the kiss built-up better and so did our tension. Heck, one time I thought Rachelle was on the other side of the room and the next second she was lip-locked. I guess I was wrong! I wanted to feel romance, but instead I felt deep kinship at most.
Most importantly, I felt like the relationship that remained really was something hard-fought for, forgiving and accepting, and all that other good stuff.
The world was pretty awesome. Old Mother Hunger’s house gave me the chills with its dark descriptions. Then The Great Forest especially was so vividly written, with towering trees, blood-red flowers, blossoms putting people in instant coma, and teethed butterflies. I loved the château with the spectacular gardens, and hiding places, the wild hunt, the crazy creatures, and the bloodbound and forestborn’s supernatural powers. The imagery and imagination was stunning.
This reminded me of Holly Black’s The Deepest Part of the Forest (which I loved) mixed with Sister’s Red (which I didn’t love).
Maybe you’ll like it? I don’t know? I think I am glad I read it. Ask me a month from now, maybe by then this story will have faded enough from my front-and-center awareness that I can tell you more objectively whether you should read it or not.
I am going to average the first part of the book I didn’t like with the last part of the book, which I loved for a rating of 3.
Ethereally and unequivocally penned by Elisa (@AverageAdvocate) at www.AverageAdvocate.com “Inspiring the average American to change the world.”
She also dabbles in fiction hidden amongst others occasionally at www.LesNomsDePlume.com. She also really needs a new picture, because she hasn’t had red hair in like, forever.
Sexuality - Heavy (never descriptive, but you know there is sex)
Language - Mild
Violence - Moderate