Well, Rosamund Hodge has done it again. I think this one was actually better than Cruel Beauty, and about on par with Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. Crimson Bound is billed as Cruel Beauty #2, but it doesn’t actually seem to take place in the same world. They’re only connected in that they’re both dark fantasy retellings of fairy tales. Crimson Bound is loosely (VERY loosely!) based on Little Red Riding Hood. It’s amazing.
In Rachelle’s world, The Forest is the dominating theme – it encroaches on villages and towns, sending “woodspawn” to attack people, and Forestborn to turn more humans into bloodbound and ultimately Forestborn. Humans are sheep to The Forest; prey to the Forestborn. Once a Forestborn has marked a human, they have three days to kill someone or they will die. If they kill someone, they become bloodbound – an intermediary step before they become completely Forestborn. Bloodbound have increased strength, resilience, and fighting skills, so the King has extended an offer to Bloodbound – even though they are known murderers, since they had to have killed someone to gain their powers – he will grant them clemency in exchange for their service to the realm. Guard the people from the woodspawn, the mindless monsters the Forest sends to attack people, and he’ll let you live.
So Rachelle is a Bloodbound, bound to the King. Unlike most, though, she still believes in some of the old pagan stories about The Forest and the Devourer – the ancient evil driving the Forest’s predatory ways. The book is about her quest to stop it from coming through into their world and destroying everything. There are twists and reveals that I cannot mention here, but it is an AMAZING piece of world-building and myth and I LOVED IT.
I also discovered she has several short stories post on her website so I’ll be binge-reading those for a while!
This book – and anything by Rosamund Hodge – is pure magic. If you like dark fairy tales, you can’t do better than this.
From the cover of Crimson Bound:
When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless—straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.
Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in a vain effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her hunt for the legendary sword that might save their world. Together, they navigate the opulent world of the courtly elite, where beauty and power reign and no one can be trusted. And as the two become unexpected allies, they discover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic . . . and a love that may be their undoing. Within a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?