by Rosamund Hodge
Expected Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Length: 448 pages
Obtained Via: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
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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 an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover 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?
Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.
Please imagine the sad trombone music of your choice playing in the background of this review.
I felt so disappointed by Crimson Bound. I loved Rosamund Hodge’s first novel, Cruel Beauty. It wasn’t an all-time favorite, but I did love it and rate it highly, so I thought for sure Crimson Bound and I would hit it off since it was supposed to be a book written in a similar style. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t help but to compare it to Cruel Beauty, but Crimson Bound never really took off for me.
Despite some of the complications, the plot of Crimson Bound was really quite simple. Rachelle was turned into a bloodbound three years before the start of the novel, a creature stronger and more deadly than a human. To turn into a bloodbound after being marked by a forestborn, you have to take a human life. In Rachelle’s case, her aunt. Now she’s looking for a sword that can stop the Devour, a terrifying creature that comes from the forest. Basically, the story is: find the sword, kill the creature.
It’s not that Crimson Bound is badly written. I love the way Hodge weaves her fantasy worlds, and there were places in the novel where I was enchanted by the story, but unfortunately they were few and far in-between. It was clear that Hodge put a lot of thought into her world-building, but I did think it was a little lacking. It wasn’t bad, exactly, but there was just something a little off about it. I did like the addition of the world’s own mythology and how heavily it played into the story.
The biggest issue I had with Crimson Bound, however, was the romance. It was just. . . infuriating is the word that comes to mind. Yes, there is a love triangle. I’ve said it before, but love triangles don’t always bother me. They’re overdone, but I can roll with them at times. But this love triangle? I hated it.
The love triangle plays a big part in the plot, so I’ll try to describe my issues with while still being as vague as possible. For one thing, it was clear from the start which way it was going to go down. I read some reviews that said Crimson Bound had a lot of plot twists, but I never felt that way. I thought all the plot points were clear fairly early on, and the love triangle was no different.
It also didn’t inspire any sort of emotion in me beside rage. The two male characters in the love triangle are Erec, a fellow bloodbound, and Armand, the king’s illegitimate son who has lost his hands in an encounter with a forestborn and is held up to be a saint. Armand was a really interesting character, and probably my favorite. His characterization was impressive and the plot points relating to his arc was probably the only thing that really surprised me. That being said, while I liked Armand as a character, his interactions with Rachelle as far as the love triangle goes were fairly lackluster and by-the-book. It felt like Erec was supposed to be the “dark and perhaps evil character you’re still supposed to root for”, but he just made me rage instead, even though I know Rosamund Hodge can write this type of character since she did in Cruel Beauty.
And yes, the love triangle took up a big part of the book. When Rachelle wasn’t in search of the sword to kill the Devourer or pitying herself, she tended to be in some sort of love triangle interaction. The bright spot in character relationships was the friendship between Rachelle and Amélie, a woman Rachelle met in her service as the king’s bloodbound. That friendship was wonderful and I wanted scene after scene of them interacting.
As for Rachelle herself, I had mixed thoughts. I am a character-driven reader first and foremost, so it’s really tough for me to get into a book when I’m not invested in a character. I don’t have to like them, but I have to be interested. Rachelle had sparks of interesting moments(particularly towards the end), but her character just as often fell flat for me. At the beginning of the book, her characterization pretty much seems to be “I did this awful thing for survival and I don’t regret killing but I hate myself for it all”. That’s always the hardest type of character for me to swallow. I don’t have a whole lot of patience for characters who are often self-pitying. If the lead characters are going to be dark and deadly, I want them to own it.
The last thing I wanted to point out was the religious themes woven into Crimson Bound. It was an interesting addition and I liked the way it played into the way the characters thought about their world, but it also felt too much like religion in our world. In some ways, it reminded me of the religion in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but I thought it was woven into the story better there. In Crimson Bound, the religion sits on the surface of the world but doesn’t really ground itself in it the same way religions actually do. There was just something strange about it to me, whether it was the phrases used straight from the Christian bible or the way the mass was described as being conducted.
It makes me so, so sad to say I didn’t enjoy Crimson Bound, but unfortunately it’s true. It just never all fell into place for me and there were multiple points that kept bothering me, which added up quickly. 2/5 cupcakes.