When Valerie learns that her sister has been killed by the legendary creature, she finds herself at the center of a dark mystery, one that has plagued her village for generations. It is revealed that the werewolf lives among them, and everyone in the village immediately becomes a suspect. Could her secret love Peter be behind the attacks on her town? Is it her betrothed, Henry? Or someone even closer to her?
As the men in the village hunt for the beast, Valerie turns to her grandmother for help. She gives Valerie a handmade red riding cloak, and guides her through the web of lies and deception that has held her town together for so long. Will Valerie discover the werewolf's identity before the town is ripped apart?
This is a dangerous new vision of a classic fairy tale, the happy ending could be hard to find.
Word to the Wise: Before you read this review, or better yet, consider purchasing this book, I feel it right to give you all the warning I received before reading this. This novel has no final chapter; in fact, the mystery this novel revolves around is not resolved at all. Upon reaching the end of this book, readers are informed that the final chapter will be posted on http://www.redridinghoodbook.com/ on March 11 (which I think coincides with the actual film release) Either way, I felt you should know this, because most people who read this novel without knowing that fact were thoroughly disappointed/frustrated. In my personal opinion (since I already knew) there was no actual let down for me, and I rather like the fact that readers are left pondering for a little bit, prolonging the reading experience.
Okay, so onto the review. Let me first start by saying that I’ve been dying to see this movie. I think it was around summer that I read an announcement on this movie being made and I just loved the idea. And to top it off, I love Amanda Seyfried so that just sold me on going to see the movie when it hits theaters. Anyway, I didn’t know a book had been made on the premise of the movie (you heard right, the movie came before the book) until a friend of mine on Goodreads reviewed an ARC of it. So, ignoring the fact I would have to wait more than a month to fully finish the book, I purchased it the week it debuted on Kindle. Contrary to many negative reviews I’ve read, the novel was actually really good.
Though the characters presented in the novel and the storyline seem to land it in the young adult genre, I would have to say that the book is better suited for a much older young adult crowd. Some of the elements this book covers (such as the fighting and torture scenes) are a bit hard to stomach and I personally think the story would have too slow of a pace for some of the younger generations. Needless to say this is the kind of book you have to stick with before actually getting into the flow of the story. The book is divided into three parts and it starts out rather slow, picking up around half way into the second part. Even so, there’s something magical and enthralling about the way Sarah Black-Cartwright went about writing this book. Her descriptions were great (giving the reader vivid pictures of her story) and her almost lyrical way of writing the novel fit right in with this darker take on the classic Little Red Riding Hood. Some people were also bothered with Cartwright change of POV to many other characters, and though I would have liked her to only tell the story in Valerie’s POV, it isn’t something so bothersome to read.
Her characters were also nice. Valerie was literally the odd girl out. Not just her physical appearance sets her apart from the other villagers but her outlook on life and her unyielding determination put her at odds with a lot people. To me the only thing that I didn’t like about Valerie was her sudden love and devotion for her childhood friend Peter. Peter and Valerie had been best friends when they were kids but due to some circumstances (which are only hinted at but never revealed during the actual novel) he and his father are kicked out of the village. It isn’t until 10 years later, during her first harvest working, that Valerie sees Peter when he comes with other workers to help out. Upon seeing Peter, Valerie’s instantly knows she is in love with Peter and apparently Peter also shares the sentiment. To me it seemed absurd, they hadn’t seen each other in 10 years less had they even had a decent conversation, and already Peter wanted her to come away with him. The romance was weird. To me the author jumped to many steps in the development of this relationship and the feeling both Peter and Valerie had for one another seemed almost unatural since I couldn't comprehend were such strong feelings had developed all of a sudden.
But well, the rest of the characters were nice. I really like Grandmother, though her eclecticness and way of acting was suspicious. I also pitied Henry Lazar (Valerie’s supposed fiancée) at times, because really there was nothing truly wrong with him and yet Valerie didn’t give him the time of day. Still, where I felt Cartwright fell flat were with here secondary characters. I swear, there were times were I couldn’t tell the difference between Rose, Prudence, Roxanne and the people Father Solomon brought with him. Rather than adding to the story, the characters cluttered the scenes.
The Wolf was another interesting dilemma. The town has always been able to appease the Wolf with an animal sacrifice, but during a blood moon, the Wolf starts killing people. Apparently the Wolf is a shifter and Father Solomon (the werewolf hunter the local priests calls in) reasons he must be someone in the town. This theory is further proven when Valerie realizes the Wolf has a pair of eyes she is very much familiar with. This means that the Wolf is who is very close to Valerie, but then again in a village that small, who isn’t familiar. Not only that, the Wolf is obsessed with Valerie and will stop at nothing to have her. The good thing is that Cartwright keeps you guessing the entire time. You go from being completely sure the Wolf is such and so, to suddenly changing your guess when another detail is revealed. Either way, it will be interesting to see who the actual Wolf is in the end.
SPOILER it’s obvious that top two suspects are Grandmother and Peter, especially considering Valerie firmly believes Peter is the Wolf, but I’m not so sure. To me Peter too obvious of a choice. My bet is on Henry or on Grandmother (but I don’t think she is the real Grandmother, maybe someone in disguise). Still I’m not ruling anyone out. SPOILER
If you’d like to place your bets and reason out as to who the Wolf is, feel free to comment below. And on March 11 will see who guessed right!
Consensus: Red Riding Hood is most definitely not the light read its counterpart suggests. For those looking for a good fairytale remake, nice characters and an even better mystery, Red Riding Hood will definitely be the novel you’ll come back to until you’re desperate to finish it. But be warned, until March 11, none of us will now what really happened.