Book: “For the Wolf” by Hannah Whitten
Publishing Info: Orbit Books, June 2021
Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher
Book Description: 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: Here we are with “Red Riding Hood” themed book number two of the month! As I said before, I always get a bit nervous when there are many books coming out around the same time that explore a similar fairytale or theme. They can’t all be good. Right?? Well, second verse same as the first with this one! Except, I think I liked this book even better than “The Wolf and the Woodsman!”
For centuries it has been know: the first daughter is for the throne, the second daughter is for the wolf. It has been many decades since the last second daughter was born and sent duly to her fate in the dangerous Wilderwood. But it is Red’s fate to once again live out this piece of history. While her sister, Neve, the heir to the throne, is aghast at the future before her beloved Red, Red herself is thankful to be locked away from the people she loves, people she fears she may injure with the dark magic growing within her. But once she finally makes her way beneath the shadowy bows of the forest, she begins to learn that the tales have twisted throughout the years and not everything is as she once thought. Neve, for her part, works diligently to save her doomed sister, and between these two, long-sleeping forces will begin to awaken.
Well, that was something else! I really like how this is now the second of these books I’ve read this month and both have had very little to do with the original “Red Riding Hood” tale. Not that I have any problems with that story, but it would have been a challenge to read three re-tellings in a month. So far, I’ve actually read zero retellings! Both of these books have only resembled that story in their use of names and the infamous red coat. Instead, imagine my surprise and joy when I got a bit into this and realized that not only was I not reading a “Red Riding Hood” retelling but I was, in fact, reading a “Beauty and the Beast” adaptation? And, like the best retellings, it was also unique and fully its own.
Much of what made it similar to “Beauty and the Beast” could be found in the basic concept and in the small call-backs littered throughout the story. You have the mysterious, other-worldly love interested, locked away in a gloomy castle, forgotten (or in this case, warped) by history. There’s the unknowing heroine, thrust into this magical world with no compass to guide her, missing a beloved family member back home (this time a sister rather than a father). And then there were small details, like the use of a glass mirror to view other places and the placement of a library as central to much of the interaction between the heroine and hero. So, very much Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” hints.
But this is not a kid’s fairytale. The woods itself was a character, and a dark, unknowable one at that. The violence of the woods’ history is clear from the beginning and the painful measures that are required to contain it sap the strength from the Wolf, the guardian of this place. Red’s own connection to the woods and the Wolf is no less comfortable. While she begins to understand the toll the woods takes on the Wolf, she sees that any help she has to offer will come with a similar price.
I was also surprised to see that Neve had her own POV chapters in this book. While Red definitely has the majority, Neve has a distinct arch and story of her own. It was equally compelling, if also frustrating in that we, the reader, have more information than Neve does and can see the pitfalls before her. But, as always, I love a book that focuses on a strong sisters relationship, and I like that Neve was not a passive character here, simply accepting her sister’s loss as fact but instead working against it.
The romance was also very sweet. The book took its time to develop this relationship properly, devoting appropriate page time for each party to work through their own personal challenges. The pieces of the puzzle and mystery behind the Wolf and the Wilderwood also only come together slowly as the story plays out. Overall, this slow pacing worked well, balanced out by the high stakes tension that looms in the ever-present danger presented by the woods itself. My one mark against the book, however, is that towards the end, the story seems to come to a head but then regroups and ramps up for what feels like a second ending tacked on. Both are necessary for the story itself, but it just read a little strange, erring a bit too close to feeling resolved to let the reader really easily step back in for heightened action all of a sudden.
I really enjoyed this book. Fans of fairytale re-tellings, particularly “Beauty and the Beast,” should definitely check it out. It’s the first in (I think) a duology, so expect another book to come, but it’s not a killer cliffhanger either.
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway and win an ARC copy of “For the Wolf!”
Rating 9: Dark, twisty, and romantic. Just how I like it!
Find “For the Wolf” at your library using WorldCat!