Review: Red Hood’s Revenge, by Jim C. Hines

September 9, 2010 Books, Reading, Reviews 1 ★★★★★

Review: Red Hood’s Revenge, by Jim C. HinesRed Hood's Revenge by Jim C. Hines
five-stars
Wars may end. But vengeance is forever.

Roudette's story was a simple one. A red cape. A wolf. A hunter. Her mother told her she would be safe, so long as she kept to the path. But sometimes the path leads to dark places. Roudette is the hunter now, an assassin known throughout the world as the Lady of the Red Hood. Her mission will take her to the country of Arathea and an ancient fairy threat. At the heart of the conflict between humans and fairies stands the woman Roudette has been hired to kill, the only human ever to have fought the Lady of the Red Hood and survived-the princess known as Sleeping Beauty.
Series: Princess #3
Published by DAW on 2010
Genres: Fantasy, Speculative Fiction
Pages: 337
Format: Paperback
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I received this book for free from The Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

 

Hines’ initial reputation as a fantasy writer was built on the humor that infuses his Goblin series; with a deft touch and a gift for the sort of descriptive flourishes that jump out at the reader like delightful surprises, he managed to create a hero, Jig, from the most unlikely of candidates.

The Princess novels show that Hines is as talented with more serious fare as he is with humor.  Retellings of fairy tales in modern fantasy are not new, and have been undertaken by such diverse and skilled authors as Tanith Lee, Neil Gaiman, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and Jane Yolen.  However, Hines has taken up the Herculean task of retelling not just one tale, but bringing the characters from all the familiar old stories together into the same place and time, and showing their further adventures after the traditional “Happily ever after.”

In the first book in the series, The Stepsister Scheme, Princess Danielle Whiteshore of Lorindar (better known as Cinderella) and her companions Snow and Talia (aka Sleeping Beauty) are drawn into the search for Cinderella’s Prince Charming when he is abducted by evil forces connected to one of Danielle’s evil stepsisters.  In book two, The Mermaid’s Madness, the trio are involved in negotiating Lorindar’s yearly treaty with the undines, and face the threat of Lirea, the mermaid princess seemingly gone insane.

Both of these novels were excellent examples of the storyteller’s craft, one any author should be proud to stand up against the canon of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.  But in book three, Red Hood’s Revenge, Hines cranks the tension up yet another notch by giving us an assassin, skilled in weaponry and gifted with magic, on the hunt for Talia.  This assassin is the only person ever to have gone up against Talia in a fight and lived.

The tales name this assassin Roudette — better known as Little Red Riding Hood.

Hines’ writing is a thing of sheer and simple beauty.  For the first time, we get a look at Talia’s homeland, the country of Arathea, a land where jeweled splendor and harsh, grinding misery lay side-by-side.  Much of the description hearkens to the rich and primal loveliness of the tales found in 1001 Arabian Nights.  The winding twists and turns of his plot provide a steadily mounting tension that makes the reader fear for these beloved characters—so much so, for this reviewer, that at times my chest hurt and I discovered, feeling rather silly, that I had been holding my breath without realizing it.

Each time the story seems to have reached a final peak, Hines pulls away an invisible curtain to disclose yet another trouble to surmount, another enemy to defeat, another tragedy to overcome.  Without spoiling the meat of the story, the ending — when it comes at last — is both satisfying and bittersweet, and solves the biggest problem hanging over Talia’s head, while opening up a path for future ones.

The Princess novels are like ripe, juicy strawberries on a hot summer day, each one better than the last.  It’s hard to argue with the thought that Hines has, with Red Hood’s Revenge, reached the pinnacle of his storytelling talent, but fans of the series need not fear that this is the end.  Hines has already announced one final book in the series, to be titled The Snow Queen’s Shadow, which will come out some time next summer.  Not so long to wait to see if it will be the tastiest strawberry of all.