Published by: Balzer + Bray
When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search 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 an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?
Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.
(This is a standalone novel, not part of the Cruel Beauty Universe.)
You can see my original thoughts on this book in this post.
Since this novel is not set in the Cruel Beauty universe but is similar in feel to Cruel Beauty, I figured that I would expand on the similarities and differences between the two novels so that if you have tried and disliked Rosamund Hodge's debut, you might give her work another chance; and if you haven't read Cruel Beauty, or have and loved it, you'll be intrigued by the promise of Crimson Bound.
Similarities to Cruel Beauty:
A.) Both protagonists have severe destinies and not so optimistic looks on life. Both have grown up believing that they've been doomed to death, and both of their character growths involve redemption of some sort: whether for themselves or the fate they have been dealt and now must accept.
B.) Both have similar love triangles, where there is obviously a good romantic interest who sees her as she is and challenges her, and a bad romantic interest who highlights the good in the other because he sees the MC for how he wants her to be. The ideal vs. the reality; one a well-realized, well-developed character who's a foil to the real romantic interest.
C.) Both have other stories, fairy tales, woven into their plotlines. In Cruel Beauty, we were told all about the demons and the great kings like Claudius who came before the Gentle Lord assumed responsibility. In Crimson Bound, we are told of a brother and sister fighting the forestborn, a story which, as in Cruel Beauty, may prove to hold the key for how the MC should proceed.
D.) Both have fairy tale like elements. Both are inspired by popular fairy tales and thus have elements like enchanted castles that hide secrets. A choice or event that lead the heroine down her main dark path - one she has never particularly liked nor understood. In Crimson Bound, Arthurian elements like swords and enchanted forests.
E.) Both are not true fairy tale retellings. Both books are inspired by fairy tales, but definitely do not follow the same plot events of their inspiration.
Differences from Cruel Beauty:
A.) Less Romance -- or the romance seems to get less focus. Maybe this one is just my perception, but Crimson Bound seems to have more focus on Rachelle's character development and more cinematic action scenes than Cruel Beauty despite a large portion of the plot, in both, occurring in castles. Perhaps this is because Cruel Beauty had Nyx married and in the same place, at all times, as her romantic interests... and in Crimson Bound, Rachelle is more focused on her duty and wondering whether she can trust anyone at all with her task besides herself.
B.) Point of view -- Crimson Bound is a departure from Cruel Beauty because it is no longer told in first person but becomes more distanced with third person past. This will probably work better for the people who did not, unlike me, like Nyx as a character. The distance might then allow them to connect better to Rachelle as a character.
C.) Magic System vs. Magic Creatures -- In Cruel Beauty, Nyx is taught the Hermetic arts, a magic system. In Crimson Bound, Rachelle must understand the inner workings of the Forestborn, immortal magical creatures with fierce strength and speed. For people who did not like the magic system in Cruel Beauty, perhaps this is a better alternative for them.
D.) Villains -- Crimson Bound seems to have a lot more direct villains than Cruel Beauty did. These villains factor directly into the climax and other action in the novel whereas the evil forces at be in Cruel Beauty seemed more like distant antagonists who weren't characters so much as forces.
E.) Comparisons -- Cruel Beauty was marketed as Graceling or Greek Mythology meets Beauty and the Beast. Crimson Bound, per the author's description in the acknowledgements, is something like a 17th (?) century France meets Little Red Riding Hood meets the Maiden with No Hands.
Regardless, Rosamund Hodge astounds me with her talent at creating complex characters and character relationships alongside some seriously cool plot twists. If you like the religious/saint/Apparat element in the Grisha trilogy; the romance dynamic in Cruel Beauty; the discussion of what makes a monster in Graceling or the half-dragon worries in Seraphina; the bodyguard-angel dynamic of damphirs-Moroi from Richelle Mead; or the Arthurian like quest in the Raven Boys, you'll find that and more in Hodge's intricate mythology. Just as I did with Cruel Beauty, I have made a lot of comparisons here because both books have struck me with that sense of universal appeal, where I do in fact think that they will generate a huge readership among already existing fanbases. And why not, with the layered feel of Rosamund's writing and world. I admire her talent greatly, and I hope that you'll give her books a shot.