About the Book:
Title: Red Wolf
Author: Rachel Vincent
Page Length: 368
Publication Date: July 20, 2021
Publisher: Harper Teen
This high stakes, pacey reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood is perfect for fans of Stephanie Garber and Megan Spooner.
For as long as sixteen-year-old Adele can remember the village of Oakvale has been surrounding by the dark woods—a forest filled with terrible monsters that light cannot penetrate. Like every person who grows up in Oakvale she has been told to steer clear of the woods unless absolutely necessary.
But unlike her neighbors in Oakvale, Adele has a very good reason for going into the woods. Adele is one of a long line of guardians, women who are able to change into wolves and who are tasked with the job of protecting their village while never letting any of the villagers know of their existence.
But when following her calling means abandoning the person she loves, the future she imagined for herself, and her values she must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her neighbors safe.
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A dark and atmospheric Red Riding Hood retelling, Rachel Vincent’s Red Wolf is a richly developed, thought-provoking novel. Surprising betrothals, secrets and lies, werewolf lore, dangerous and deadly woods, a love triangle, and fearsome journeys propel the story and make for an immersive read.
From childhood, Adele is inexplicably drawn to the woods. She doesn’t know why until her sixteenth birthday, when she learns that she is a Guardian – part woman and part wolf – who is destined to protect humans from the dangers that lurk just outside their village. Adele is shocked and dismayed as her life is turned completely upside down. All of her hopes and aspirations must change as she learns about her family and their duty.
Adele’s character is dynamic and well-developed. We see a teen filled with hope become a skilled fighter and protector of her people. We also see a young woman who faces tremendous responsibility and who struggles with her conscience. Adele constantly questions her fate and her influence over the lives of others. She is uncomfortable with the secrecy and lies and yearns for a simpler life. However, she is also drawn to the woods and the world inside of it. Her character is so well-layered, and her conflicting feelings highlight the tumultuous turn her life has taken.
Other characters are richly developed as well. Adele’s mother, grandmother, and sister are the definition of female strength. They are close and share a strong bond, even though there are secrets between them. Friends, villagers, and two young children add interesting and often complicated dynamics to the plot. With so many strong and unique characters, there is never a dull moment in their lives.
What makes a monster? This is a question that appears repeatedly throughout the story. There’s a great line that suggests that sometimes when one has to make a decision, there are no good choices. I think the story highlights this concept, as Adele is often faced with difficult choices and unexpected complications. Adele has to face the ramifications of her decisions and actions, which leads to even more difficult choices. As a guardian, this is her burden to bear, and the line between good and evil, as well as right and wrong, is often blurred.
Sometimes a guardian has no choice. Even more often, she has no good choice.
The world-building is another strength of the novel. Dark, foreboding, and atmospheric, the forest is so vividly described that it becomes a character. I love the imagery and personification, which contribute to the life-like feel of the dark woods surrounding Adele’s village. The dark wood is a scary place that humans avoid at all costs, and the author skillfully projects an ominous foreboding anytime the woods are mentioned. The dangers of the woods are a constant presence in the lives of the villagers, creating a fearful and wary mood throughout the story.
The dark wood was alive. That’s how it had always felt to me, anyway. As if every breeze that skimmed my skin were a breath from the forest itself, blowing over me. As if I’d marched into the belly of some great beast. As if I’d been swallowed whole.
Now, I’m not usually a big fan of love triangles, but in this story, it totally works. Adele is torn between her first love and a partner who is specifically chosen for her. The two men in Adele’s life contrast each other well while sharing many similarities. Both young men are honorable, intelligent, and brave, but only one can truly understand and know about Adele’s full identity. Adele’s choice isn’t easy, and I think that’s a pattern throughout the story – how people react to difficult choices. Some choose to face these problems head-on, some try to avoid making decisions, and others ignore the problems altogether. Adele doesn’t have that luxury, and she spends much of the story conflicted.
Well-paced, action-packed, and immersive with a heart-pounding and shocking ending, Red Wolf makes you think about morals and ignorance and how fear of the unknown often leads to unfounded and irredeemable decisions. Thanks so much to the author and Harper Teen for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
- The world-building.
- The thought-provoking concepts.
- The dynamically developed characters.
A man with a weapon in his hand and fear in his heart is a danger to everyone.
I don’t want to win your hand based on what he can’t be for you. I want to win based on what I can be for you. What we could be for each other.
A weapon is only as fierce as the warrior who wields it.
The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was nothing at all.
This is a great story for people who like dark and atmospheric YA fantasy. Fans of retellings will also enjoy this unique story!