For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten
|For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten|
|Reviewer: Amber Wells|
|Summary: A deeply unique and atmospheric retelling of the traditional fairy tales we all know and love.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: June 2021|
|External links: Author's website|
In Red's family, the first daughter becomes queen, and the second daughter becomes a sacrifice. To Red's misfortune, she is the second daughter. Sent alone into the woods with nothing but the cape on her back, Red knows what to expect: within the woods is a wolf, and he is the one who will decide the fate of their kingdom. If she is not a worthy sacrifice, the monsters he keeps contained to the woods will be released, and the fabled kings he keeps hostage will never be returned—or so the stories go. But when Red enters the woods, expecting nothing more than to be killed within the hour, she finds that the legends are lies. The wolf is not a monster—he's a man.
Despite there being a thousand Beauty and the Beast retellings in the world, Whitten has managed to incorporate details from other fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White to create a fresh spin on this beloved story. Her version is dark, deeply atmospheric, and is filled with magic that spills through the prose. It's a luscious tale that I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys retellings with a subtle touch of horror.
I found the opening of this book to be quite slow. It mostly focused on telling the reader about the world and its long history with the Wilderwood, whilst not providing much action to keep me entertained. But things started to pick up once Red finally entered the woods and found Eammon. That being said, the overall pacing of this book is still a little slower than average. This isn't a critique at all, in fact, I really enjoyed the slower pace because it allowed the character's dynamics and relationships to be explored at a more natural pace. The romance between Red and Eammon took time to develop and didn't fall victim to the insta-love/stockholm syndrome tropes that usually accompany these retellings.
The world building was incredibly immersive. I never thought that sentient, evil trees would become a fear of mine, but the ones in this book definitely gave me new nightmare fuel. They were so creepy, usually standing stationary and unobtrusive, but at the smell of blood they became savage creatures that attacked with no remorse. Some scenes were so tense that I felt like I'd completed my daily workout just by reading. Seriously, if I ever need motivation to go on a run, a forest would be a perfect place for it because I would be too scared that the trees are chasing me the whole time to even consider taking a break.
Although the main story focuses on Red and her new life in the Wilderwood, there are a few "Valleydan interludes" scattered throughout the novel (these follow her sister's perspective back in her home kingdom). At first, I found these interludes to be quite boring because the courtly politics we learned about was not as interesting in comparison to the tense adventures Red was facing in the woods. However, when I realised how interconnected the events in both narratives were, I became a thousand times more invested.
Overall, I had a wonderful experience reading For the Wolf and eagerly anticipate its sequel. Similar books that I would recommend are Uprooted by Naomi Novik and The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.
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