Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright and David Leslie Johnson



BLURB: “Valerie’s sister was beautiful, kind and sweet. Now she is dead. Henry, the handsome son of the blacksmith, tries to console Valerie, but her wild heart beats fast for another: the outcast woodcutter, Peter, who offers Valerie another life far from home. After her sister’s violent death, Valerie’s world begins to spiral out of control. For generations, the Wolf has been kept at bay with a monthly sacrifice. But now no-one is safe. When an expert Wolf hunter arrives, the villagers learn that the creature lives among them – it could be anyone in town. It soon becomes clear that Valerie is the only one who can hear the voice of the creature. The Wolf says she must surrender herself before the blood moon wanes…or everyone she loves will die.”

REVIEW: This novel is a spin-off from the 2011 film of the same name, loosely based on the classic fairytale and directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who writes in the introduction to the novel that she felt the story would work just as well on paper as it had on screen. I saw the film not long after its release, and I enjoyed it – as many of you will probably have noticed, I do like fairytale retellings – though I did feel while watching it as though something was lacking. The story was much the same in the book. At the beginning of the novel, all of Valerie’s worries are centred on who she will chose to dedicate her life to – the handsome blacksmith Henry who wishes to marry her, or the unpredictable Peter who was once her childhood friend and wishes for her to run away with him. When her older sister Lucie is killed by the Wolf, however, everything changes for Valerie. The situation worsens upon the arrival of the priest, Father Solomon, who claims that the Wolf is someone from the village itself. This leads neighbours to turn against each other, and Valerie’s friends to turn against her so severely that she is labelled a witch for being the only person who can communicate with the Wolf. The novel does indeed mirror an Early Modern witch hunt, particularly with its fear of the supernatural and things it doesn’t understand – like the young boy Claude, who is mentally disabled and targeted by Father Solomon for his differences, in what is undoubtedly the only moment in both the novel and film where the reader feels truly distressing emotions, horrified and upset by the treatment of the innocent Claude. Although the finger of suspicion is pointed at many characters in the novel, one of the major letdowns of the book for me was how obvious it appeared to me who the Wolf really was -though I still will not mention the name in the review, for the sake of spoilers. I also found the writing to be simplistic and often very clunky, with unemotive dialogue, though the description of the violence endured by the villagers during Solomon’s crusade was very well-written. Overall, I feel that this could have been a much better novel had the writers been able to diversify a little more from the events of the film and perhaps expand on them.


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