Crimson Bound

I've curiously awaited Crimson Bound for two years now (that's how long it took me to get my hands on the paperback and actually starting it). Author Rosamund Hodge's first novel, Cruel Beauty, was a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast", a novel I enjoyed but wasn't amazed by. Crimson Bound is a retelling of "The Little Red Riding Hood" but features a very fierce female protagonist and I was excited to read it. Spoilers ahead!

Rachelle is a one of the King’s bloodbound, a human transformed by a Forestborn but not yet a Forestborn themselves. Rachelle is to protect the people from the woodspawn, creatures of the Great Forest out to kill humans. One day, it’s said that the Devourer will once again rise and swallow the sun and the moon, turning the world dark. There’s only one way to stop this from happening and Rachelle has spent the past three years since she was turned into a bloodbound searching for the legendary sword that can stop the promise of Endless Night. But Rachelle is suddenly stuck as a bodyguard for one of the King’s many bastard sons. Keeping track of Armand and searching for the sword proves difficult, especially as Erec, the head of the bloodbound, won’t let Rachelle stray too far from him. But if the Devourer comes back, the world is over and Rachelle knows she can’t fail.

I was interested in this novel even before I really knew what it was about but I was curious when I learned that it was the story of a brave soldier girl guarding an illegitimate prince while trying to save the world. It seemed like a good story for me to read right now, when I haven’t really felt like reading anything. Hodge’s previous novel, Cruel Beauty, was fast-paced and easy to read. I think it took me two or three days before I’d finished it and I hoped for the same with Crimson Bound. The writing was very much the same and the novel had the same feel to it as Cruel Beauty had. It was a page-turner and you could easily read a hundred pages a day, if not more. However, it still took me weeks to finish this story and it’s partly because my reading slump is very much still around but also because it was a rather boring story.

The back of the novel promises me a lot of things. Love! Murder! Betrayal! The end of the world! I certainly got all that, just not quite in the way I wanted. Rachelle is a strong heroine, but she’s also somewhat boring and, mostly, repetitive. She repeats the same thing over and over again – ironically, the thing the story is about. You’d think that she, as the protagonist, and me, as the reader, wouldn’t need to be reminded every other page that she needs to get her hand on this on magical sword because otherwise the Devourer rises again and it doesn’t matter if she dies fighting it because she will die anyway and she never asked to be a martyr but she has to be and blablabla. Every other page was the same. Like yes, I know, you need to find that bloody sword, that’s literally the entire plot! You don’t need to say it every chance you get because I do remember it.

So, yeah, this turned the novel into a snooze-fest pretty quickly. I skipped some parts of the story and didn’t miss anything. The first half is just Rachelle searching for the sword, despising Armand and trying not to get into bed with Erec. The second half is Rachelle loving Armand and trying to come to terms with having ended up in bed with Erec. The love triangle was boring and Rachelle falling in love with Armand happened over just a few pages. I noticed something she said and then like three pages later she confessed to herself that she loved him. Without really knowing him, of course, and after hating him for weeks because she thought him a liar. Erec is Armand’s opposite and I did like that Hodge made Rachelle very aware of the difference between the two men. While Erec loves himself most, likes to humiliate Rachelle and hates when she points out his flaws, Armand always sets her first and he laughs when she acknowledges something he’s not good at. Despite this, the love between Rachelle and Armand came from nowhere and seemed all-consuming and endless. It didn’t feel real, which the almost-relationship between Rachelle and Erec at least did.

The novel held a lot of action and quite a few fighting scenes. Some were good but most were dull since they were pretty much the same. I skipped a few and didn’t miss much, really. The Great Forest, the bloodbound and everything that had to do with the Forestborn and the King wasn’t really explained until far into the story and I had a hard time really grasping why creatures like the bloodbound (hated and feared by almost every human and killed by many) would voluntarily work for the King as his watch-dogs. I waited for a good explanation of this for some time, but when it appeared after three hundred pages I couldn't bring myself to care anymore.

Everyone in this novel is either very evil or very good, there was no in-between which I felt would’ve added depth to the story. Either you wanted every human dead and the Devourer back or you wanted the Forestborn dead and the Devourer gone. It made it feel like a story for a child, that people are either bad or good, you can never be both. All of this combined into creating a novel that felt rushed and childish, with a weak plot, weak writing, a heroine who spent most of her time repeating herself and a love story that wasn’t believable at all. I found it to be a book you can read when you’re bored and just want some light entertainment, but it certainly isn’t a story that will knock you of your feet. I thought it was okay, but not more than that. At least the cover was pretty.

 

Their fractured light

This is the last novel in Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s Starbound trilogy, a novel that I’ve been waiting to read for more than a year now. The first two novels, These Broken Stars and This Shattered World, was some of the best novels I’ve read. I fell in love with the world-building, the characters, the plot. It was two amazing, rich stories that really moved and made an impact on me. So my expectations for Their Fractured Light was high, and you know what happens when you believe a book is going to be amazing. It’s the exact opposite.

In the first novel, Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Meredsen survive the crash of a spaceship but they’re stranded on a long-forgotten planet. While there they find a strange creature that is unlike any other in the universe. In the second novel, Flynn Cormac is the leader of the native rebels on Avon and Jubilee Chase is a notorious soldier who fears nothing. Avon is filled with some weird creatures and it isn’t until Tarver and Lilac explains that these creatures are the same ones as they encountered after they were shipwrecked and that they’re not dangerous. The four band together in an attempt to save the creatures and take down the man responsible for it all – none other than Lilac’s father.

In Their Fractured Light we meet Gideon and Sofia. He is a famous hacker known as the Knave of Hearts and she is a con artist who has a vendetta against Roderick LaRoux. They stumble upon each other by accident and must work together to get out of a tricky situation. They lie, they cheat and they deceive and despite it all, they’re drawn to each other. They both know about the Whispers, the strange creatures that can be found in LaRoux Industries headquarters, the creatures that can turn anyone into an empty shell. Gideon and Sofia agree that someone have to do something to stop LaRoux and whatever he is up to and they work out a plan to do just that. Neither of them has any idea that four other people are planning to do the same thing, and no one understands the repercussions of their choice to go after LaRoux – or that they never might’ve had a choice to begin with, that this was all destined to happen.

I want to start this by saying that I wanted to love this story. And that there will be spoilers in this review. But yeah, I wanted to love this. It takes place on Corinth, a planet that is in fact an entire city in three levels. It features not only a hacker but also a con artist. They’re working together! They execute crazy schemes! They’re trying to save the universe! Yeah, the plot was good and I thought I was going to love this book even more than the first two. How wrong I was.

The biggest problem with the story was the characters and their development. They both work alone and they’re about sixteen. Too young, I think, but more on that later. They have no friends, no family, they’ve both lost someone close to them. They decide to work together and fall in love in about a week. Well, it’s about a week for Sofia, Gideon is gone the moment he sees her dimples (which he talks about all.the.time). I hate insta-love with a passion and this was horrible. They’ve been alone for so long and Gideon throws everything out the window when he meets Sofia, which doesn’t end well. He basically tells her that he would die for her, despite knowing very well that he doesn’t know her at all. They both lie to each other, it’s true, but Gideon is very naïve when it comes to Sofia. It all felt so made up, which it is, but I shouldn’t feel it. I should believe them and yet there I was, every step of the novel, thinking that this is so unrealistic.

I could never accept the insta-love, so this novel went from promising to awful in about three pages. However, this might’ve still been okay if it hadn’t been for… Sofia. She was awful. Gideon fell head over heels for her even though she did nothing but lie to him and bring chaos into his life. She’s a master thief and she can trick anyone, anyone, into believing her. When she later works with Jubilee and Tarver she forgets that she’s never been in the military and takes command and the other two actually listens to her. Every time she opened her mouth everyone else just seemed to drop what they were doing, listened and agreed, despite the fact that she was the one who started the whole mess with Whisper-war. She was so perfect and wonderful and smart and lovely and pretty and she had the most amazing, yes the cutest! dimples in the whole world! I got sick of her about fifty pages in and she only got worse after that. One of the worst character’s I’ve come across and I, who liked Gideon, judges him so hard for falling for her.

The second problem I had with this novel was the constant repetition of… well, everything. Sofia, in particular, liked to remind me of what was going on. Like, yes, thank you very much but I already know this because I’ve read this far! Every other page was filled with facts that I already knew. You don’t have to tell me why you’re doing what you’re doing because this is the whole plot of the story! I know you need to take down the Whispers to save the universe! I know you why you want to get even with LaRoux! I know all this and do you know why? BECAUSE THAT’S ALL YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. I got so feed up with this that I was about to DNF this book but I thought I should stick it out. Then, when I had about twenty pages left, another thing happened that again made me want to quite it but I continued. One chapter in this novel was good. One chapter, barely ten pages out of 420, was good.

I know this is a YA novel but I was surprised by the character’s age. They were all around 16-19 and I’m talking about two characters that worked as soldiers. I can’t comprehend how the army would want a seventeen year old soldier or how a seventeen year old could become ambassador for an entire planet. What adult listens to a teenager? I thought their age was very strange in relation to the work they did and it was just yet another thing that struck me as weird with this novel.

The only thing that I liked was the world-building which was amazing. However, some parts didn't quite make sense, a few sentences was backwards and a couple of phrases was on repeat. I am sad that the series is over but I am very glad that I managed to finish this novel. I’ve been reading it for over two months now and it’ll be nice to put it on my shelf and forget about it. I will continue reading books by Kaufman and Spooner because I know they can do better than this but Their Fractured Light was a huge disappointment for me.