Kait Nolan, known for her paranormal romance/urban fantasy novellas Forsaken by Shadow and Devil’s Eye (see my discussion of Forsaken by Shadow), has written a YA fantasy/paranormal romance called Red. And we are all grateful that she decided to branch out.
Perhaps you can guess from the title, though possibly not, that Red is inspired by the old folktale Red Riding Hood. The novel has been advertised with two different taglines: “Every fairy tale has a dark side…” (true, but not especially enlightening,” and “Once upon a time Red Riding Hood fell in love with the wolf. It ended badly.” Now that is a tagline you can sink your teeth into, yes?
This novel follows the story (part romance, part coming-of-age) of Elodie Rose (and I love that name by the way), the latest in a long line of women descended from the girl who inspired the Red Riding Hood tale. A curse haunts the matrilineal descendants, leading to madness and death for every successive generation. But, having reach the age of 17 safely, Elodie begins to hope she has escaped the curse. Until she suddenly begins to experience symptoms that mark the change, and she must admit to herself that she is becoming a werewolf.
Enter Sawyer, a young man with a temper, a protective streak a mile wide, and a troubled past. Sawyer, like Elodie, is not all that he seems. The two become fast friends, finding in each other a stability they have been unable to find elsewhere. Yet, just as it seems the two might become something more than simple friends, a hunter whose family has hunted Elodie’s line through the centuries appears to take her life.
Thrown into mortal danger, with only Sawyer by her side, Elodie must herself become the hunter in order to fight for her right to live. If she is to survive she must learn to trust herself and her strength, and accept the wolf as an integral part of who she is.
Having previously read and enjoyed Forsaken by Shadow (and already loving the concept of reimagining fairy tales) I approached this novel expecting to like it. However, I have (of late) begun to lose my taste for YA fantasy/paranormal romance, in large part due to Twilight and its many mimics, so I was also a little apprehensive. I need not have worried, however.
Kait Nolan takes a very old tale and turns into something fresh and entertaining. Elodie and Sawyer are both complex, interesting, and likeable characters. Sawyer is a great character — angry and a little brooding, fiercely protective, smart, and sweet, who despite his best intetions makes more than a few mistakes. But the true bright spot, and rightly so, is Elodie herself. She is intelligent and resourceful — perhaps a little moreso than is common in most 17-year-old girls, but Kait Nolan does a good job demonstrating why she is not your typical 17-year-old girl. Elodie is torn between her desire for a normal life, and her determination that she would take her own life before hurting anyone. And Kait Nolan is careful in presenting this angst in a way that is believable for a teenage girl with a lot on her shoulders without succumbing to melodrama.
I will admit that the whole romantic concept of instantaneous attraction, of that “they touched and suddenly all was right with the world” idea, gets a little old. It seems like the romantic elements in many YA fantasy tend be very similar and predictable. It’s a complaint I file against the whole genre and the expectations that most readers have for the genre. However, Kait Nolan does frame this concept nicely within the context of werewolf behavior, which helps alleviate some of the predictability. And overall the romance is evolves in a believable fashion, if somewhat quickly due to the time constraints of the plot.
All in all, Red is a very entertaining novel with good pacing and great characters that fans of YA fantasy/paranormal romance should definitely add to their reading list.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)