Pages: 329 (paperback)
Published: January 2011 by Poppy
Recommended for: fans of retold fairy tales; anyone considering whether or not to see the new Red Riding Hood movie, or anyone who'd rather read it than see it
The blacksmith would marry her.
The woodcutter would run away with her.
The werewolf would turn her into one of its own.
Valerie's sister was beautiful, kind, and sweet. Now she is dead. Henry, the handsome son of the blacksmith, tries to console Valerie, but her wild heart beats fast for another: the outcast woodcutter, Peter, who offers Valerie another life far from home.
After her sister's violent death, Valerie's world begins to spiral out of control. For generations, the Wolf has been kept at bay with a monthly sacrifice. But now no one is safe. When an expert Wolf hunter arrives, the villagers learn that the creature lives among them--it could be anyone in town.
It soon becomes clear that Valerie is the only one who can hear the voice of the creature. The Wolf says she must surrender herself before the blood moon wanes...or everyone she loves will die.
Red Riding Hood is closely based on a new movie coming to theaters March 11th, directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) and starring Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!, Mean Girls). In the past, I haven't exactly loved most of the movie novelizations and movie tie-ins I've read. That's because the book is generally around first, and generally better than the movie ('cept in the case of the Princess Bride), and if the movie comes first, how much hope can there be for the book, right? That's sad, glass-half-empty logic, yeah, but Red Riding Hood proves me wrong. Sorta-kinda.
This book is not the Red Riding Hood story you heard as a kid. It's part horror movie, along the lines of The Village, part mystery, and part romance. Valerie lives a quiet life in her medieval village, which is notable only for the monthly tribute the villagers must pay to the Wolf, an age-old beast as terrifying as he is mysterious. When Valerie's sister is killed by the Wolf during the Blood Moon, the villagers seek a way to destroy him once and for all. They hire the services of a veteran werewolf hunter, who informs the naive villagers that the Wolf is not a beast-- he is one of their own, a cursed werewolf forced to change every month beneath the full moon. Suspicion falls on nearly everyone, most of all Valerie, who has always been a 'strange' girl: deep, thoughtful, and unladylike. Meanwhile Valerie is caught up in her own conflict: her parents have arranged for her to marry Henry, the wealthy blacksmith's son and the most coveted bachelor in the whole village. But when the woodcutters arrive in town, Valerie is reunited with her childhood friend Peter-- and soon finds that he has become far more than a friend. Caught between the two young men, Valerie does not expect that the Wolf-- whoever he or she may be-- desires her, too. For under the Blood Moon, those bitten by a werewolf are doomed to become werewolves themselves.
Retold faerie tales are best when the similarities between the book and the original tale are subtle, I think, and there were a few places where I thought this book was far from subtle. (ie Valerie tells her grandmother, quite randomly, 'What big eyes you have...') I liked the way the mystery of the Wolf and the action unfolded, even though the story started out fairly slow and superficial. There's a lot of death, and a lot of gory death at that, which really can only be expected of this kind of werewolf story. In the end, I'm still not exactly sure about the holy terror that is the Wolf of Daggerhorn village, but one thing is clear: he's no Jacob Black. My biggest peeve with the book is the inconsistent and often shallow characterization-- Valerie was alright, but her two love interests held little or no interest, really. Father Solomon-- the Wolf Hunter-- was nearly awesome enough to make up for all that-- he's such a brooding, vengeful character, and best of all, he's going to be played in the movie by Gary Oldman (!!) Can't wait to see that... Anyway, in the end, I enjoyed the read, but do wonder if maybe it wouldn't be a better idea to simply go and see the movie. That way you get the cool-looking cinematics and the plot, without having to trudge through all of the extensive backstory or (hopefully) bad characterization.
Cover: 4/5 (white covers are the new thing, it seems)
Plot: 3/5Overall Rating: 3/5