I saw S.J. Sanders‘ Red recommended on Tiktok and purchased a copy for myself.
There were certain truths everyone knew. Never wear red or any other bright color. Make as little sound as possible if one had to be outside the protection of the sanctuary settlements. And never, ever, go out in the wild places alone. The Ragoru, an alien species set down to live among them, dwell within the forests and everyone knows that they crave all things red.
Arie’s life has always been one of playing by the rules. She doesn’t draw attention to herself. She doesn’t leave her home without her hood that conceals her bright red hair. It is a secret from everyone, and her hood protects her secret so that she may continue to live safely within the village until one day that secret comes to light. Absconding into the woods soon becomes her only safety, and she will risk her very life into the care of the very dreaded beings that all people fear, the Ragoru, in hope of making it to her grandmother’s house in the citadel at the other side of the great forest.
When circumstances reveal them to not be the monsters of human imagination, but that they stir the ravenous beast within her, Arie finds that she is willing to risk far more to find a way to be with them forever. Even if that means severing ties with her grandmother, rejecting the human comforts of the citadel, and facing the horror of the Order of the Huntsmen.
Meh. I actually really enjoyed the first half of this book. It is super formulaic and predictable. (I mean if, before reading the book, someone had asked me to write a generic outline based on this book’s blurb, I would have succeeded with 100% success.) There are NO surprises and NOTHING that you’re used to seeing in the genre is left out. Even the seemingly random events are just section 2, part b, subsection iii of the most commonly utilized industry outline (or so it seems). It’s your basic bitch, Why Choose fairy-tale retelling book. But hey, we read them because we enjoy them. So, predictable in the extreme, but also super cute. I really did enjoy watching the males come around. They’re all adorable in their own way.
I can’t really say the same for Arie though. She just kind of existed. And I honestly never got over my page-one question about why, if you could be exiled or killed for having red hair, you’d grow it out instead of cutting it off. I was really bothered by the idea that she walked around with a whole Merida-like head of hair hidden under a hood her whole life. Why would you endanger yourself like that? It was ridiculous in the extreme, but I decided to look over it. Despite that, I still found her a fairly bland heroine.
I’m wandering. My point was that despite being noting new to the genre I enjoyed it…up until the halfway mark. I even overlooked the editing mishaps. But after the halfway mark, when Sanders took the characters outside of their small story-line, the whole thing fell apart. Most notably the plotting fell apart and suddenly everything was too easy.
Three non-humans walked into a hostile human city for the first time and instantly found what might have been the only human who both wasn’t afraid of them and was willing/able to help them. Arie similarly was introduced to one person. She asked them for help and they said yes, etc. It didn’t even really feel like a story anymore, just a list of events with no emotional significance. By the time the final fight scene rolled around—which was won with ridiculous ease—I was done.
The book is also just too long. Whole sections could be cut easily. I’m thinking of the entire episode with the mutated humans and subsequent events, for example. All of it could have been cut wholesale for a tighter read, it contributes so little to the overall story.
So, to recap, fun if formulaic first half, lazy (and still formulaic) second half. I love the cover though!