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 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 they 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?
Crimson Bound, though similar in cover style to Hodge’s other book, Cruel Beauty, does not share the same universe, to my initial disappointment. It however, like Cruel Beauty, is the retelling of a fairytale or two, mashed up together in her particular dark style, with complicated characters and a heroine who is slightly wicked. Rachelle is the Red Riding Hood of this story, an apprentice whose job was to weave charms to protect people. One day, she gets in over her head and the Wolf of this story nabs her, making her one of the creatures of the dark force that inhabits the Forest. Three years later, she hunts her own kind for the king, reviled for her bargain and always feeling guilty for getting tricked, but trying to redeem herself by saving people.
When the Devourer is about to re-enter the world, she takes upon the impossible quest of finding the sword that will defeat it. Unfortunately, she is stuck with guarding the king’s son, Armand, a person who is something of a symbol of hope to the masses, something she thinks he is misusing. As she gets to know him, and as she goes about solving the riddle of the sword, she finds that for all her evil tendencies, she still has a beating heart. Far more than romance, the relationship between Rachelle and her friend is profound, a bond that keeps her human. The romance is a slow burn, and complicated by the fact that both of them think there is no time left. Erec, the other maybe-point of the triangle, was a Gaston-type character, and for all his faults, he was wonderfully written. The book is not as great as Cruel Beauty, but it is still an amazing story Hodge has weaved, and enriched with darkness and beauty.
Received a free galley from Balzer + Bray, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.