I’m sad to say that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I enjoyed Cruel Beauty, but I still liked it well enough.
Here’s what I liked:
– As can be expected from Hodge, unique and fascinating worldbuilding. The setting is a country reminiscent of 1600s-1700s France, but there is always a mostly-invisible, supernatural forest that can manifest at any time. It’s filled with spectral, shadowy plants and animals and creatures called the Forest Born that trap humans and force them to kill someone else in exchange for their own lives. Once the human kills, they become a Bloodbound — a supernaturally strong person who is destined to one day become a soulless Forest Born. This is what happens to the main character, Rachelle, at the start of the novel. Also, Crimson Bound uses Germanic mythology — a few deities and monsters, plus Ragnarok and a version of the Wild Hunt.
– The heroine is physically strong and a protector figure for the hero, while the hero is relatively helpless because he has no hands. Instead he has strength of character; he is honest, brave, and humble.
– Even though the heroine is still a typical badass female character, she is also very vulnerable, has a need for human touch and human connection even as she is losing her humanity. And she resents the weakness of character that she once had and still perceives herself to have.
– Hodge’s prose is absolutely beautiful.
– I really could never tell what exactly what would happen next.
Here’s what I didn’t so much care for:
– There are some strong religious themes reminiscent of Catholicism. They aren’t preachy at all — just part of the worldbuilding. However, I find a lot of real-world religions and references to them a bit anxiety-inducing. I’m sure there are other people who feel this way.
– The romance was a bit quick for my taste. It wasn’t really insta-love, but I felt like I wasn’t “in on” the chemistry of the couple. I didn’t quite understand how such a strong bond could have formed out of the interactions they had.
– Much as I loved the worldbuilding, it did get a bit confusing.
– I’m not really into court intrigue, and there was quite a bit of that in this story, which made it feel slower for me.
Hodge came out with a duology inspired by Romeo and Juliet over the past couple years, but I’m probably going to skip those books because of the negative reviews. However, she is coming out with a book in 2020 that seems like a return to her original fairy tale style. I can’t wait for that one.