Author: Rosamund Hodge
Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling
Pages: Hardback, 436
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Opening Lines: "'In all your life, your only choice,' Aunt Leonie said to her once, 'is the path of needles or the path of pins.'"
"When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But when Rachelle was fifteen she was also reckless—straying from the forest path in pursuit of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting foes 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 an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forced Armand to help her hunt for legendary sword that might save their world. Together, they navigate the opulent world of courtly elite, where beauty and power reign and no one can be trusted. And as they become unexpected allies, they discover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?"
~ Jacket copy
Working as a nanny this summer, I had the "privilege" of reading The Land of Stories book one and two (please, do not ever subject yourself to that drivel!). In many ways, there is a lot of re-imaging in that series, which was one of the few reasons I continued to read the books to my charges (their steadfast love for the horrible books was the other). While the series was terribly written and juvenile at best (in the worst possible way for a 20-something year-old author), it reignited by love for retellings. Doing a search on Pinterest for them, I stumbled upon this one. Being given Rose Daughter when I was 14 opened many doors into that world. Even though I have read some interesting and obscure retellings, this was my first venture into Little Read Riding Hood.
At the very basic level, this book is an apocalyptic story. More years ago then can be counted, fraternal twins (a boy and a girl) stopped the Devourer from rising. Since then, on the fringes of society, woodwives have been weaving charms to protect the villages from him and his forestborn. As an apprentice woodwife, Rachelle's duty is to carry on in the long tradition of walking the path, never entering the forest, and weaving charms to protect her people. However, that changes when she meets her first forestborn and her feet dare to venture off of the path.
This book had everything you could hope for in a retelling, a YA fantasy, and a book concerned with the end of times. The author created an absolutely rich and vibrant world! She was able to do a wonderful job showing the difference between the decadence of court—the chateau later—and the villages on the outskirts of society, closer to the forests. It was obvious to me that she studied Medieval literature in school. The dichotomies she presented are very prevalent in that time period. It gave a more fairytale-esque air to the story, and, in some ways, made it far darker.
The characters were well thought out and sympathetic. In more ways than one, she was able to help me, as the reader, get inside of Rachelle' struggle. Erik is very much akin to a person in my own life, so it made the story truly engrossing and all-encompassing. Even the secondary characters had depth to them!
It is hard to fully talk about this book without giving away too much. Suffice to say, it was beautiful, magical, romantic, and dark all at the same time. It was hard to put this book down, and I found myself wanting to burn the midnight oil despite work the following morning. This is definitely a book that stays with you.