What initially drew me to this book was the vividly crimson color and the very cool cover design. But I like to believe that books should not be judged solely because of their covers so I decided to read the synopsis as well, and what I found intrigued me — another retelling of Red Riding Hood tale, except this time, there were two read cloaked sisters who hunt werewolves and of course one leading man that stands between them. It does make for an excellent plot right off the bat.
When they were little, Scarlett and Rosie March’s home was attacked by a ferocious werewolf like creature called Fenris. The attack killed their grandmother and scarred Scarlett as she tried to defend her baby sister from the wolf. Unfortunately, the attack did not only lead to the loss of Scarlett’s eye but also left her bereft of normal human sensitivity. Wanting to keep other girls safe from their fate, she learns about the Fenris, and decides to live the life of a hunter, leaving her sister no choice but to follow her lead. Both sisters grow up together with Silas, who comes from a family of woodsmen. He is Scarlett’s only friend and the only person she cares about aside from her sister. But complications arise when Silas and Rosie develop feelings for each other — feelings that are far from brotherly.
From the onset, the character that drew me into the book was Scarlett. I admired her for her single mindedness in hunting and appreciated her inner strength. She was a victim but she refused to sit and mope about her situation and instead tried to do something about the problem — which in this case involved hunting giant dogs who prey on the innocent young women in their town. She is fiercely protective of her sister, oftentimes going overboard but how can one blame someone who has witnessed and endured a life threatening monster attack? Scarlett takes it personally when she fails, perhaps the only time readers can detect cracks in her tough persona. I like this vulnerable side to her, a fact that is not often highlighted in the book. I liked her relationship with Silas too and thought that they made a pretty good team. However, I did not appreciate her repetitiveness in her justification of her obsession with hunting. After the first quarter of book going over the same lines again and again, I felt that readers should not have to read it again at the last quarter.
On the other hand, I really was not a big fan of Rosie, who struck me as an overly idealistic sweetie pie who does not understand her sister’s obsession at all. I did not like that she was always too scared to make her own decisions and based her future entirely on her sister’s go ahead. True, she was indebted to Scarlett for saving her life and big sis was a bit overprotective (an understatement) but I felt that she whined a bit too much and played the victim too much for her own good. But if readers take into account her age (only sixteen), then it might be wise to make allowances for her character. After all, she has had her fair share of tragedy in her young life.
*Mini Spoiler Alert* In truth, I was actually rooting for the Scarlett-Silas ship and felt disappointed when it did not materialize. I felt like Scarlett deserved to have somebody who completely understood her and made her soften up a bit, to balance out all the tragedy in her life. Plus, they could still hunt because she and Silas are excellent partners. I felt that if Rosie left Silas to her sister, she could have fulfilled her dreams to travel as well and she would be making a sacrifice for her sister too, returning the favor for what Scarlett did for when they were young. Unfortunately, with the way things happened, I felt like there was really no love triangle that could have added spice to the conflict and the characters were not allowed to step out of the stereotypes that the author set up for them from the beginning. Handsome woodsman falls for pretty and kindhearted sister. Scarred and tough sister, left alone to sharpen her knives.
Storywise, I felt that the book was good, because it incorporated all of the elements of the fairy tale with a modern twist. The fight scenes were especially great because the details of the description carried all of the tension needed to keep readers at the edge of their seats. Girl power is the central theme to this young adult novel and it delivered more than most. I also liked the twist at the end.
All in all, author Jackson Pearce did a pretty good job with this novel but I wouldn’t say that this will become one of my favorites. It is interesting enough to account for a few hours of entertainment. It is well written and imaginative, and the author manages to tell a full story with everyone’s different version of happily ever after. But I felt that something was missing to make the story truly come alive. I couldn’t quite put a finger on it but as I read the final pages, I was still looking to feel the magic that I feel when I read fairy tales. I just felt that the envelope was not pushed enough. Such a shame because this had the potential to be sensational. Instead, it was just average. But that’s just me.