Reading Level: Young Adult
ARC: 328 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 7, 2010
Series: Fairytale Retellings #1
Reviewed by: Lili
Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris--the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She's determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.
Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls' bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett's only friend--but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they've worked for?
A few months ago, you may remember that I reviewed another novel by Jackson Pearce entitled FATHOMLESS. FATHOMLESS is actually book three in her fairytale retelling series—this being book one—but the books do not have to be read in any specific order since they’re all pretty much stand-alone novels connected by the common theme of recreating a fairytale. I was looking forward to FATHOMLESS immensely because it was a Little Mermaid re-telling, but I was incredibly disappointed. However, my friends urged me to give Pearce another try because they love her, and so I picked up SISTERS RED, clearly a Little Red Riding Hood re-telling, and realized that Pearce really is a decent story-teller. While I have yet to be blown away, my original disappointing one star experience with Pearce is now easily a satisfactory and entertaining three star one.
SISTERS RED is undoubtedly an easy read to get through. There’s not many complexities and the creativity in the tale is high. I was pulled in immediately in the first chapter where the concept of the Fenris was introduced via a gruesome attack that left a young Scarlett scarred for life and her Grandmother dead. See, the Fenris are pretty much werewolves that pose as humans and turn into their wolfish selves when cornering an attractive young woman whose heart they plan on eating. Get it? The better to eat you with, my dear. But that’s beside the point. This type of werewolf was incredibly interesting because this gruesome experience shaped Scarlett into a ruthless Fenris killing machine for the remainder of the novel. Her trusty red cloak lured them in and then her trusty hatchet was used for the kill. But when all of the different Fenris clans begin gathering to search for the Potential—the next boy that can be changed into a werewolf with a bite since not anyone can be changed into a werewolf in this book—her world is about to get turned upside down.
While I found the plot fascinating, I did have a few issues with it. To begin, the first chapter really had me on the edge of my seat. It was dark, it was quick, it was detailed and surprising. In other words, it was a great way to begin the novel. The several chapters following the introduction seemed dry in comparison. I wish that the high level energy could be found throughout the entire novel instead of just in pockets of huge hunting sprees performed by Scarlett, her younger sister Rosie, and their partner Silas the woodsman. Secondly, the major plot points and mysteries were incredibly obvious to me less than a third of the way through the book. The entire novel is focused on finding who this new Potential is and rescuing him before he gets turned into a Fenris. I figured out his identity and willingly bet my next paycheck on it before I reached page 100, so while the search and the lore revealed later on in the book was fascinating and interesting, the big reveal was anti-climatic and the build-up was entirely unnecessary.
Lastly, the characterization was superb in some characters and lacking in others. I really, really loved Scarlett. She faced down a Fenris right after it killed her Grandmother and killed it in return with nothing but a broken piece of glass from a cracked mirror. In the process, one of her eyes was ripped out of her head so she now has to wear an eye patch and her entire body was mauled. Pretty much every inch of her skin is marred with scars aside from the skin right above her heart. She has issues with beauty and insecurities, she secretly envies her younger sister who is naturally gorgeous. Scarlett feels alone in the world because of her physical insecurities, which is why her sister and her friendship with Silas, her hunting partner, is so important to her. They’re all she’s got since everyone else judges her. Then there’s Rosie, who seems incredibly vain in comparison to Scarlett’s complexity. Scarlett lives and breathes the hunt to save other girls from the fate forced upon her by the Fenris, but Rosie doesn’t really want to hunt. She wants to be with boys, and she wants to dance, and do normal things. And while this would normally appeal to me, seeing it in comparison to Scarlett’s passion just fell really flat. Chapter four, told in Rosie’s POV since it alternates with Scarlett’s has a line near the beginning describing where they live that says:
“The hills and farmland surrounding our cottage are the very definition of “rolling.” Everything rolls endlessly—the trees into forests, hills into the horizon, clouds into mountains.”In other words, everything just keeps going. That’s how I felt about the chapters in Rosie’s POV, they just kept going and going and going when all I wanted was for them to end so that I could get back to Scarlett. This is saying something since Rosie’s also the only one who experiences any form of a romantic relationship. I thought that Scarlett’s reaction to Rosie’s relationship was entirely justified because she’s also only 16 and she’s dating a 21 year old. I’d be annoyed too and the fact that Rosie didn’t think Scarlett’s anger was realistic annoyed me further in regards to her characterization.
All in all, I think this is one of the most original Little Red Riding Hood re-tellings out there. I have yet to come across one that is comparable. While it is not perfect, it’s certainly entertaining and this quick read will easily put a smile on your face. Pearce managed to take a beloved fairytale and twist it into an entirely new story while maintaining some of its overarching concepts. I am happy to report that I am now eager to give her another chance. This novel is perfect if you are looking for a quick, unique fantasy with a small side of gruesome detail. With that being said, I don't have the stomach for true gore and I got through this one just fine.