I went into this book thinking it was a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, but what I ended up with is a book that combines all the great parts of that story plus Beauty and the Beast and Howl’s Moving Castle. Oh, and there’s some blood-drinking trees in it too.
The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.
For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.
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.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a dark fantasy book and it was thrilling, adventurous, romantic, and mysterious. It really holds all the contents of an expertly written fantasy story within its pages.
I think the first thing I want to talk about is Red. She’s resigned to her fate, kept people at a distance to avoid growing overly attached, and when the fateful day comes for her to enter the woods, she does it without any protest. Her sister, Neve, is also a major character in the story as she doesn’t want to see her sister sacrifice herself and wants to find a way to help her from the grips of the Wilderwood. But when Red finally meets the Wolf, things change. Suddenly, Red isn’t sacrificed. She actually has a chance at life and while she may not be able to leave the woods, she definitely takes this opportunity to have one.
I really love the care Hannah Whitten puts into her characters. They weren’t flat or two-dimensional, but characters who struggle through some horrific ordeals, who are so dynamic that even the woods themselves play a character on their own. I love it when characters are so believable in the way they act that you find yourself invested in what happens to them.
I think readers will really love Eammon (aka The Wolf). While he reads a bit like an alpha male, he’s definitely not the kind that makes you want to punch a wall. Instead, you understand that he’s strict because he cares and while Red may not listen to everything he says, he doesn’t lash out at her with anger like the infamous Beast of Beauty and the Beast.
This story is an amalgamation of that one plus Little Red Riding Hood and Howl’s Moving Castle. I saw so much of Howl in Eammon, a beast because he’s forced to be, a man who slowly changes as the story goes on, and a romance that I didn’t even see coming! I guess romance is a part of Beauty and the Beast and Howl’s and you can see the attraction between the two, so I don’t know why I was so surprised when they finally connected. Perhaps it’s because I’m so used to reading fantasy stories without a lot of romantic entanglement in them. But if you do love a little romance in your reads, then you’ll really enjoy this one.
However, I couldn’t really understand the magic. There’s a lot of inferring language Hannah Whitten uses throughout the story so it almost felt like a giant puzzle to understand what’s going on. Of course, it’s blood magic because it’s not a dark fantasy without it, but it was difficult to understand how it helped to feed the woods and protect them from the shadows. I understood the motivation of the villains and the antagonist was such a reveal, but when it came to the sentinels and the final battle scene, I just felt confused.
Overall, I can see why fans love this book! It’s truly an intriguing fantasy story filled with blood magic, romance, suspense, and some very big twists. If you’re a fan of dark fantasy stories that twist on some classic literature, then this is for you.