Narrator: Inés del Castillo
Series: Wilderwood #1
Published by Orbit
Published on 1 June 2021
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, New Adult
Source: my local library
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The first daughter is for the Throne.The second daughter is for the Wolf.
For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark, sweeping debut fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn't the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.
As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose—to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he'll return the world's captured gods.
Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can't control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can't hurt those she loves. Again.
But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn't learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood—and her world—whole.
Length: 13 hours 40 minutes
For the Wolf appears to be a Little Red Riding Hood retelling: the main character is called Red and she wears a red cloak, which is a point of interest on the cover. There’s a scary dark wood and a Big Bad Wolf.
But don’t be fooled. This isn’t a cool interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood. It’s beauty and the Beast retelling, where the Beast is a hot tree.
Bear with me! It’s actually really cool and I enjoyed it a lot. I loved the writing style. It was a mix of this kind of almost dreamy writing with visceral descriptions and it wasn’t afraid to shy away from violence – and there was a LOT of blood. It flowed really well and I found the word choices lovely and thoughtful.
Even though Red isn’t really trapped and her virtue isn’t threatened, it still felt very Gothic. The setting took place in a creepy sentient wood and a crumbling, moss and tree laden keep, in a perpetual twilight, in winter. Is was very aesthetic. I thought the worldbuilding was incredible for a debut novel. This is something that has been thoroughly thought out and a lot of love and effort was put into it. The lore, the history, the other lands, their customs, just everything, I really loved that.
While I certainly think the main couple of Red and her tree boyfriend Aemmon are very cute, I didn’t really buy the sexual tension. I didn’t see what they saw in each other. Lots of physical descriptions don’t actually help me figure out why they like each other. It didn’t feel emotional because it was so heavily based on physical descriptions – and not even descriptions of like, emotional reactions, just like, ‘his shoulders were broad’ kind of thing. I guess the author was trying to ‘show not tell’ but the romance aspect was overly shown and I never really understood how they actually felt about each other until suddenly they were in love. And why? Is it because they were stuck together and there was literally no one else? That’s a pretty shitty reason to fall in love with someone.
Unfortunately I still can’t quite figure out what made Red different to the other Second Daughters. How come they died and she survived? Was it because of her unwise foray into the forest on her 16th birthday that marked her? How was that part relevant? Was it that she and Eammon genuinely fell in love? Was is that they were willing to sacrifice? I thought that was the bit that killed the others. This may have been revealed at one point where my concentration drifted, but I don’t think it was ever addressed.
One thing I did really appreciate was Red learning use her magic. It took time and multiple attempts for her to be good at it! I’m so sick of characters sucking at magic then suddenly for no reason they’re all-powerful and amazing. Red made small progress each time she trained, which was amazing and totally underrated.
As for the story, well everything was so complicated and nothing was what anyone believed., which I really liked. It made it so twisty. Characters were told one thing but there was another thing lurking beneath the surface. Characters dedicated their lives to misguided beliefs. We don’t know what is true and what is lies and what is half true at basically any point. I really liked that.
However, the plot was a bit repetitive. Red was attacked by the sentient woods and Eammon saved her, rinse, repeat. It wasn’t until Red decided to visit her sister that the plot really got moving. Part of this is because we didn’t see half the plot from Neve’s point of view. The reason for that is probably to leave it a mystery and have us imagine what happened ourselves, which sounds like I’m criticising but I actually really liked. However it meant that huge leaps in plot were mad off-page for Neve, while Red’s plot ran around in circles repeating itself.
Specifically to the audiobook (and I apologise for any misspellings due to this format), I really appreciated how the narrator used slightly different accents for characters from different countries, like Rafe and Lira, both from Medusha, tinged with a almost a Spanish accent. Kirri speaks very fast, but Aemmon speaks slower, calmly. While I’m a huge fan of narrators who change their voices for different characters and can do decent impersonations of opposite sexes, I haven’t ever heard a narrator speak at different speeds for different characters. I was really impressed with that and I thought it was so creative and enjoyable.
This is the kind of stuff I want to be reading, with a ‘technically adult’ young adult protagonist, not a child. Someone still finding their way in the world but adult enough to get married and have sex and not have it be play-acting. Due to marketing, I think this book is better off in the New Adult section if available, since it is about a 20 year old and some scenes are inappropriate for younger YA readers, but I would shelve it with other adulty-YA marketed books like Court of Thorns and Roses, The Eyes of Tamburah, and other books that have their actual young adult protagonists old enough to be out of school.