Title: Girl in the Red Hood
Series: Classical Kingdoms (Book #4)
Author: Brittany Fichter
Summary: After her father moves the family to a village deep in a sunless forest, Liesel is bitten by a wolf, and unbeknownst to her, marked for a terrifying destiny. Befriended by a mysterious boy in the woods soon after, however, Liesel finds herself falling in love with the one person in the world who can save her from that awful end or doom her to it. In this retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, Liesel must decide whether to accept her fate for the sake of those she loves, or fight for the freedom to choose her own way.
Review: I was pretty excited to get into this book since this was my very first "other Fichter" novel. I've published two books now under my maiden name "Fichter" and -- lo and behold -- there's another Fichter out there publishing stories, too. What's even more uncanny is that we both focus a lot on fairytale retellings. Most people can't even pronounce "Fichter" properly, let alone know someone by that name, so finding another author who shares that name was just the bomb diggity. However, I should probably call her the "first Fichter" since she's been at this publishing game (and fairytale retelling) a lot longer than I have.
Anyway, this book impressed me. Little Red Riding Hood is a tough fairytale to retell, mainly because it's so short. There isn't a ton of material to work with. But Brittany has fleshed it out into a fabulous story that's sure to keep you up late into the night!
Liesel wants nothing more than to stay with her grandparents and parents on her beloved mountain. However, when a mysterious sleeping illness strikes her mother, her father will stop at nothing to cure her. His passion overcomes common sense with the promise of a new healer in a small forest village. He moves his family immediately there, no matter Liesel's pleas and her grandmother's warnings.
Once there, however, tragedy begins to strike in more ways than one, and Liesel finds herself an outcast. Her only friend is the mysterious boy in the woods, a boy named Kurt who is as interested in the stories of magic and adventure from her grandmother's book as she is.
Brittany did an amazing job keeping a lot of the original fairytale elements intact. Throughout most of the novel, Liesel wants nothing more than to go back through the woods to her grandmother's house. She does indeed deliver a pie to a shut-in at one point. There are lots of wolves. LOTS. There's the signature red cape -- which I must park on for a moment. A lot of times, authors just fling the red cape out there because that's the signature look for Red Riding Hood (plus, it's in her name). But they really don't ever give her a reason to wear red. As Kurt points out, red is pretty much an impractical color to wear in the woods since it stands out so much. However, Liesel's cape is something she values from her mother, and the vibrant color becomes almost a running joke throughout the book. Which I greatly appreciated. There was definitely thought put into that red cape. I approve.
The relationship between Liesel and Kurt was fun. I really liked how they built a solid friendship together while they were young, a foundation that was what really got them through the tough times as they got older. They are not without their bumps and thumps, but I never once thought the drama got out of hand. It was believable. Liesel learned how to trust Kurt, yet at the same time, she was hurt when she realized he was keeping secrets from her.
And Johan. I wanted so much more of Johan. He was fun, but his story really touched me. I won't spoil it.
Advisory: Fantasy violence/scariness. Obviously, this tale has a lot of wolves in it. Brittany doesn't outright call them "werewolves" but they're very much in that vein. While in human form, they understand their curse and the implications, but fear transforms them into their wolf forms. While in the wolf form, not many are able to control what they do (some, like the epic Johan, can); however, they are not the gory, bloodthirsty werewolves of legend. They will kill, but only when prompted to attack. There are some intense moments in the book, some wolf attacks, but nothing is terribly graphic or violently out of hand. I thought Brittany handled the scary element well for the tone of the book. Just enough to give you some shivers, but not enough for a nightmare.
Light romance. I really appreciate how real the relationship between Liesel and Kurt felt. Brittany was extremely careful in creating them as a couple, and the description of their relationship is very clean. A few times, some darker things/married couple issues are hinted at, but they fit well into the tone of the book. I was impressed with how it was all handled.
Fun Note: September is Little Red Riding Hood Month over at Fairy Tale Central! Pop on over to check out more reviews of LRRH retellings and other cool posts!