“What did you mean when you said the path of needles, not the path of pins?”
He remembers what I said. The realization slid through her, terrifying and sweet at once. He thinks of me when we are apart. “Something my aunt told me once. She said that you always have to choose between the path of needles and the path of pins. When a dress is torn, you know, you can just pin it up, or you can take the time to sew it together. That’s what it means. The quick and easy way, or the painful way that works.” ~Rosamund Hodge (p. 10)
Rachelle is an apprentice to her aunt–a woodwife, a wise woman of the village who weaves charms to keep the Great Forest, the woodspawn, the forestborn, and the Devourer away. But the Devourer is only growing stronger as sunlight is fading from the world and the woodspawn and forestborn attack humans more often. One day Rachelle wanders off the beaten path only to meet a forestborn–inhuman, beautiful, and predatory. She pridefully thinks she can trick him into telling her how to defeat the Devourer. He tells her and also marks her –she has three days to kill another human and become a bloodbound or she will die. She tries to hold out, but on the third day she kills. Rachelle runs away from home and becomes one of the King’s own bloodbound–killing woodspawn that attack people in the city of Rocamadour. Killing the woodspawn to protect humans is her lifeline to redemption. Until she sees the forestborn who marked her–and he tells her that the Devourer is returning soon. Now Rachelle’s only hope is to find the sword that can defeat the Devourer–but first she is assigned to protect and spy on one of the King’s illegitimate children–Armand. A man who is seen by the people as saint because although he was marked by a forestborn, he chose not to kill and instead of dying, only lost his hands. Rachelle hates him–not only because he is an obstacle in the path of her scouring the country for the sword, but he also was able to survive the mark of the forestborn without killing. But there is more to Armand’s story, even if he is partially telling the truth, and Rachelle knows it. Guarding Armand might just lead her to the sword and to finding a way to defeat the Devourer and also exacting revenge on the forestborn who forced her to become a monster.
Crimson Bound is a wonderful, gritty, and glittering retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. It is set in a surreal fantasy world based on 18th century France. The writing is light, fast-paced, and the book is impossible to put down for long. The morality and moral problems of the characters are complex. Erec works particularly well as the wolfish antagonist–t makes it all the worse because he does really love Rachelle in his own, sick, twisted way. Or perhaps it is that he wants to own her and so thinks he loves her. It reminded me a little bit of the problem of Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park–although Fanny is not a bloodbound killer. In any case, I positively LOVED this book and I would expect no less from the author of Cruel Beauty, which was an instant new favorite. I recommend it–particularly if you plan to read it this fall, while the days are growing darker and Halloween is approaching.