Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent

Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent. HarperTeen, 2021. 9780062411624

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy

What did you like about the book?  In this retelling of the Grimm’s Little Red Riding Hood, Vincent moves the action to the vaguely medieval French village of Oakvale.  Cut off from the world by a menacing forest filled with trolls, goblins, sinister vines, and werewolves, Oakvale is protected by the men of the village watch but also (unknown to its inhabitants) by mysterious female Guardians, who can morph into redwulf. Soon after her 16th birthday, fiery Adele learns she is one of these select few, along with her mother and granny. This upends her plans to marry handsome Grainger, a member of the watch and sworn enemy to shapeshifters, and brings her mysterious betrothed, Max, to town. When Adele unwittingly brings a mute child into the village who turns out to be a dangerous juvenile whitewulf, she must make a decision about whether to kill him or help him escape. It was fun to try and figure out how all the traditional elements of the story would fit into this updated version and things definitely picked up steam as Adele becomes more adept at fighting monsters, eventually remaining a redwulf for several weeks.  I loved the creepy and enticing cover art. All the characters cue as White.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I had hoped this would be a manageable, one-volume 350-page fantasy, but alas, it ended with unresolved strands and definitely seems destined for a second installment. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the characters particularly compelling or the world-building satisfying. Also, once Adele masters the wolf metamorphosis, she becomes so much better at fighting monsters that it made me question the decision to revert to human form. If the Guardians’ raison d’être is village protection, better to stay a wolf!

To whom would you recommend this book?  Teens who enjoy twisted fairy tales and want theirs leavened with a bit of romance; this book definitely recalls the Team Edward/Team Jacob dichotomy of Twilight or the Gale v. Peeta decision central to The Hunger Games series. Appropriate for grades 8 and up.

Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? YA fiction, fantasy if you genre-fy

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: August 17, 2021

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