ARC Review: RED WOLF by Rachel Vincent

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white next to girl in red hood with eyes shaded on greyscale ombre background
Genre: Fantasy retelling
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 2 stars
Series: standalone

Synopsis:

Book cover for RED WOLF: title in white on a girl in a red hood with trees below

For as long as sixteen-year-old Adele can remember the village of Oakvale has been surrounding by the dark woods—a forest filled with terrible monsters that light cannot penetrate. Like every person who grows up in Oakvale she has been told to steer clear of the woods unless absolutely necessary.

But unlike her neighbors in Oakvale, Adele has a very good reason for going into the woods. Adele is one of a long line of guardians, women who are able to change into wolves and who are tasked with the job of protecting their village while never letting any of the villagers know of their existence.

But when following her calling means abandoning the person she loves, the future she imagined for herself, and her values she must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her neighbours safe.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

This is the second incredibly trope-heavy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood I’ve read this summer. It’s YA rather than adult, and it is pretty much a paint-by-numbers YA retelling. I just want a retelling to add something that I haven’t seen before – and this doesn’t.

Little Red Riding Hood and werewolves is really nothing new. For example, I can think of three little red riding hood movies around 2010 (when there seemed to be a lot of red riding hood stuff) with werewolves in them. Not to mention one of them has little red riding hood as the werewolf as the premise. The movie poster is a bit similar to this book cover, which is why I was immediately thinking about the movies around this property.

And, naturally, it’s a village of small minded people who will burn Adele and her family if they find out she’s a werewolf, even if she is the “nice type” who protect the village. This is never challenged – at no point does the village get confronted with an undeniable werewolf in their midst. Rumours, yes, about someone else, but ones that are actively being fought/ignored. There is no point where the village has to decide whether to embrace change – instead their “small mindedness” is repeatedly reinforced by the incident with Adele’s father.

It felt as if the villagers were never given a chance to show if they were going to fit the mould or grow. Instead, the danger was just assumed and repeatedly asserted, with Grainger as the only one really there to be an example, and it lessened that danger for me. It felt like there was this promise made by the text that someone important had to find out – rather than the person who did and then the way that was solved felt like a bit of a cop out for consequences.

To add to the common YA feel of this book, it contains a “YA love triangle.” AKA, it’s not an actual triangle, but Adele is torn between two boys. There is the childhood sweetheart she is set on marrying, but who cannot know about her secret or he will burn there. And there is the boy she’s suddenly told she’s engaged to, who does know her secret – and whom she is determined to hate, but he ends up being pretty nice.

As you can probably guess, the only way of resolving this is to have one of the boys die or for Max (the betrothed) to turn out not to be so nice or for Grainger (the childhood sweetheart) to react badly to the secret. I won’t say which it is, but, well, I guessed as soon as the “it’s a YA love triangle” happened.

The ending is really abrupt, like there’s a lot of unanswered promises set up by the book and events don’t get concluded well. It feels like there should be a sequel, but I can’t seem to find news of one.

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