I’m so sorry I’m a day late. I have been out of town since Wednesday and just got back at 2 am this morning. This book review has been sitting drafted and half finished since Wednesday morning because I never got to finish it. I hope ya’ll can forgive me being a bit behind! Also, there is no advice column this week…but that means there will be a greater post next Saturday!
So, my book review for the week is Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakey-Cartwright.
This book was, in my opinion, a very intriguing and catching read. I devoured the whole thing in one day–it was one of those books I had troubles putting down. Thus, I would recommend a read, especially if you want to watch the movie afterward (which, I have heard, was directed by the same person who directed the Twilight movies). Books are always better read first, not saved until after the movie. At least, so I believe.
Brief Recap: Set during medieval times, Valerie (the Red Riding Hood of the story) finds her village haunted by a Werewolf who must be appeased with an animal sacrifice every full moon. Everyone manages to placate the beast until the coming of the red harvest moon, when Valerie’s sweet and innocent sister, Lucie, is struck and killed. The village goes wild trying to capture and kill the wolf. In the meanwhile, as Valerie comes to realize she is the Wolf’s true target, she must make a choice of love between Henry, the gentle blacksmith’s son, and Peter, the handsome and wild woodcutter.
The writing in Red Riding Hood, I thought, was outstanding. It read more simple than most books, but I found the simplicity of the writing was freeing to the reader. I never felt I was bogged down with words or paragraphs too long for my taste. There was a good balance of dialogue and setting/description, which was a plus with me. When there was description, I adored what Blakey-Cartwright decided to put into the book, because it gave me enough to go on in order to feel like I was a part of the book without spelling out the scene letter by letter. Huge plus, for me.
Not only was the writing style unique and refreshing, I found the plot twists to be, yes, predictable (who hasn’t heard the old fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood?), but they were changed in such a way that I found it both clever and enticing. Half the point of the book is to figure out who, among the villagers and Valerie’s family and friends, is the Werewolf, and Blakey-Cartwright crafted in a story that left me constantly guessing and questioning myself until the very end. An added bonus was that each setting was painted correctly, with historical information that I felt corresponded well with the time frame the story was set in. I really enjoyed this.
My only, only complaint, but unfortunately what I found to be a rather huge downside, was how Blakey-Cartwright and her publisher crafted the very end of the book. They lead you up to the final showdown, when you finally learn the identity of the Wolf and why everything happened the way it had, and then cut off the book right there. No end chapter, no explanations, nothing but reader shock and frustration. I felt very put off and used. They did leave a website, the book website, where I could download and read the “bonus chapter” (which turned out to be the end of the book), but I found this scheme to be extremely unnecessary. Not only was it bothersome to download files onto my computer and read the last 20 pages on my laptop, but what of people who don’t often have computer access or borrowed the book from the library? It just wasn’t well done.
Other than that, the writing was amazing and that alone leaves me with a desire to re-read this book. I don’t see writing styles like that very much these days. It was pulled off in a way that left me wanting more.
Category Rating: 4/5 (-1 for ending shenanigans)
The characters! I felt Blakey-Cartwright pulled her characterizations off very well in this book. There were some characters I would like to have known more about, some that could have been fleshed out to avoid being rather flat, but the main characters (which I feel were the most important), were built in a way that showed their personalities, their strengths and their weaknesses, and gave the reader something to relate to.
The few main characters were: Valerie (being Red Riding Hood herself, this would make sense), Peter the woodcutter, and Henry the blacksmith’s son. Outside of the love triangle were several minor characters, such as Valerie’s parents, her sister, her grandmother, and her friends, and then below that were several characters who were flat characters–additions used only for one or two purposes. Still, I found the cast to be wide enough, and introduced enough, where I knew what everyone’s purpose was and could still admire them for who they were.
Valerie, the main character, is the one character I really found myself intrigued by. The rest were interesting and served their purpose, and some I did find myself rooting for very much during the course of the story, but the story of Red Riding Hood seems to mainly be about Valerie and her connection with the Wolf. Therefore it only makes sense that the Blakey-Cartwright put so much time and effort into fleshing her out. While it was sometimes hard to relate to Valerie, as a teenage girl I certainly understood some of the things she came up against. The decision between following her heart and following a sense of duty (running away with Peter vs. keeping the engagement her parents set up with Henry), the desire to be liked by her friends and the hurt when they betrayed her, and her desire to look up to her sister as well as save those she loved from the Wolf. Valerie had some really strong morals and points that I admired about her. I also admired that she wasn’t afraid to be different, to stick out from the rest of the crowd. While her friends were interested in boys and flowers and other girly things, she was more tom-boyish and strange . . . and proud of it. She didn’t want to fit into the mold the world cut out for her; I appreciated that. Overall, Valerie was the perfect Red Riding Hood, but with a unique twist that left her memorable–standing out from the many other versions of the story.
Category Rating: 5/5 (for main character and love interest), 3/5 (for minor characters)
The Wolf. Oh, my gosh. I can’t say much lest I give away the identity of the Wolf (which is half the fun of reading this book), but the Wolf was cleverly written into this novel in a way that kept the truth of the old tale while adding a spin to it and making it almost, in a way, darker . . . and yet so much more understandable. The fact that Valerie can talk to the Wolf and is drawn to the Wolf adds a thrilling sort of aura around the Wolf and their relationship, and I even thought the added throw-ins from the old tale were great additions to the overall read (for example, the exchange of “Oh, what big teeth you have” was in the book, as well as the Wolf dressing up like the grandmother and using her skin as a Wolf might use a sheep skin in order to trick the other sheep, just clever stuff like so).
I was really excited reading about the Wolf. As I said, I can’t give away too much, but the Wolf was one of my highlights about reading this book. Mostly, I think, because the fairy tale of the Wolf and Red has always been one of my favorites . . . not for the gore, but for the clever meaning underneath, and how the Wolf was basically the embodiment (in some versions) of Red’s sins and secret desires, and by being around the Wolf and giving into those desires, it cost Red her life (moral: don’t slip into temptation because temptation can cause your downfall, etc).
Category Rating: 5/5
Creativity and Uniqueness:
There is a certain measure of creativity and uniqueness in Red Riding Hood. The fact that Blakey-Cartwright took a well known fairy tale and rewrote it takes away a few creativity points, as it did not come directly from her own imagination. She used the Red, Wolf, Woodcutter, and Grandmother idea, and even left in certain well-known sayings from the original tale.
However, she expanded all the characters, giving them a depth I haven’t seen in this tale before. Now everyone has motives, everyone has private desires and secrets that must be uncovered. Blakey-Cartwright took a 2D fairy tale and made it 3D with settings, backgrounds, side-plots, you name it. She added her own characters, too: a sister for Valerie, a father, a Werewolf slaying priest, a love triangle. Certain scenes in the story, certain things said, I found to be extremely creative and actually quite clever.
Thus, if you’re looking for something brand new and fresh to read, I wouldn’t suggest this book. But if you are looking for something to keep you hooked and entertained, a version of an old classic with a new perspective to brighten your summer reading list, I advise you to head to the library and pick up Red Riding Hood. It’s not outwardly creative, but the way Blakey-Cartwright borrowed the skeleton and added her own clay and paint really impressed me. It’s creative in its own way, and as for unique, I think this version stands out above the crowd.
Category Rating: 3/5
In conclusion, Blakey-Cartwright twisted an original fairy tale into a story that has the potential to be memorable. I have always loved the classic tales, the ones that were read to me when I was a child. Thus it is always exciting when someone takes an old tale and adds their own touch to it. A long time ago, storytellers lived off their craft. They’d travel from town to town, spreading stories that would both haunt and touch people forever. However, not all of the stories were written down. Many were orally driven, passed on from generation to generation by speech, not text. Often times the next generation would then add their own little mark to the story, mix it up a bit in order to call the story their own. And I think that is what Blakey-Cartwright has done with the classic, Little Red Riding Hood. She took a tale as old as time and made it into something we can all remember from our childhood, but something darker, more in-depth, more fascinating. She added a bit of her soul to the tale, and that is what makes this book true gold.
It is a darker version of the tale, don’t get me wrong. There is mention of sacrifices, torture, and death, and if those things bother you, I would suggest researching some more on this book before reading it. However, I think these mentions add to the story because the story of Little Red Riding Hood is not a nice one. It has always been dark, warning little girls to stay away from predators, to protect themselves and listen to their parents. Often times ignoring words of warning and going astray can cause pain and horror, and often times temptations and sin is strong. It is what we do with the temptation, what we do with the warning, that shows us where we will end up and what we will become. So despite some darker mentions in the book, I think it has a moral that can speak to everyone. And with that, I would indeed suggest reading Red Riding Hood. It’s on my list to re-read when I have the time.
Book Rating: 4/5 (-1 for ending and some darker mentions)