Synopsis:

The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

Review:

Thank you NetGalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for an e-copy of this book.

This book is quite complex to review. 

First of all, if you are expecting a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, this is not it. The main character’s name is Red, she wears a red hood and she is promised to the Wolf – who is not a wolf. And that’s the extent the retelling will go. I was surprised to recognise elements from The Beauty and The Beast, which, for some reason, keeps being the favourite fairy tale of all the writers and an infinite source of inspiration (screams into the wild: that’s enough!). 

Well, bummer. This was a first point deduction to this story. 

Another point deduction was the rather confusing introduction and info dump in the beginning, mixed with a super detailed description of the Wilderwood. Further down in the story, I am sorry to say, it didn’t get easier to grasp. 

Red was a very weird character, who I couldn’t relate to. In the beginning of the story she has given up and accepted her destiny as a sacrifice for the Wolf. There are a series of quite dark chapters, including the creepy ceremony where she is prepared to be sent as an offer, and I was quite intrigued by the premises. I was able to turn a blind eye on the confusing settings, and I was ready for the ride but it didn’t get better. Once she finally enters the Wilderwoods and meets the Wolf she makes it quite clear she is there to stay and she doesn’t want to go. You are supposed to understand Red’s motivation to stay based on a short account of a very traumatic experience she and her sister Neve went through. One night they get drunk and enter the Wilderwood, you are given hints that something terrible happened, other than Red getting a spiritual and magical connection with the enchanted woods. The reader is given few details of that terrible event, chapter after chapter, after chapter… and then it’s the middle of the book and you still don’t know what the heck happened and why Red is so reluctant to go back. 

I mean, you get to understand the full picture only when you are too far into the story, so it is difficult to fully get Red’s actions or stubborn behaviour. Instead, she just comes across as an immature and petulant child. And on top of that, you have a repetitive plot – so much blood spilt – and a magic system more and more puzzling. 

Another thing that made me cringe was the swearing. I have no problems with swearing in general, but an s-word here and there further prevented me from taking the dramatic tones of the story seriously – or whatever these characters were saying. 

The romance was bemusing. How the writer managed to do insta-love and slow-burn at the same time is a mystery. Anyway, it wasn’t even justifiable, because falling in love with someone just because he is broody (or because he constantly smells of coffee) is not enough for me (also he is not a wolf as promised). 

I don’t think this book should be categorised as YA but it’s not even adult, probably something in the middle. I have to admit, it was a bit of a struggle to finish it, I almost DNF’ed at 40%. The pace of the story was too repetitive, the characters not fully developed and it just didn’t work for me. It saddens to say this – sigh. This was another highly awaited release of the summer, which didn’t live up to the hype.