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.