For the Wolf
Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Rating - ⭐⭐1/2
"The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.
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."
For the Wolf is a fantasy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and is the first installment in the brand new Wilderwood series by Hannah Whitten.
First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley and Orbit Books for providing me with a copy for review. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions of the book.
As a retelling, the first thing I always ask myself is whether or not this brought something new and exciting to the table. Ultimately, this did not manage to do that, as all the elements of the story were rather weak and weren't fleshed out enough. I have outlined my in-depth thoughts on the book below.
Overall, I thought that the writing itself was easy to digest which I find is typical for YA books. The only complaint I have about the vocabulary is that the name of our main character, Redarys, is extremely awkward to pronounce. I understand the need to have a fantasy character with a unique name, but when I have to pause my reading every time in order to pronounce it properly, it becomes a bit of an inconvenience.
While this does move away from its source material enough to say that it is a retelling, the core storyline, however, is nothing that I haven't seen before, which I would say is one of the biggest pitfalls of the book.
The catalyst for the plot is that the second daughter is sacrificed to The Wolf, and that idea held up until more about the Wilderwoods is revealed. Sacrificial characters and mysterious magical woods by itself have already been done several times before, so again, nothing new here to see. There were also a lot of minor plot holes I found relating to some key aspects of the story, but I will not go into details in order to avoid spoilers. Needless to say though, the plot wasn't as tightly woven as I would have liked it to be, and I was left with many questions regarding the overall direction of the story.
Speaking of direction, the plot doesn't throw any punches as I was able to anticipate what was going to happen. Whether or not that was intentional, being able to see where the story was going from the start took away from the impact as a whole. I also found that after a while the story started to get repetitive. It was a vicious cycle of someone being in danger and in need of being saved and all over again. I wish there was more to the story than that.
Moving on, the lack of a concrete timeline leaves a lot of answers for me. While this could be considered a minor detail and at this point, I could be nitpicking, but I would have liked to know how long Red was in the woods. This is especially crucial to me as I wanted to know how long Red and Eammon have known each other, for reasons which bring me to my next point - the romance.
You know right off the bat that there is going to be an eventual romance, and there were tiny fragments of attraction between them, but other than that I didn't feel any attraction between them. The lack of a timeline doesn't help either as it makes it feel more insta-lovey, which is never a good thing as I want to see their relationship progress over a good period of time and not as if a switch was flipped. The way the romance progressed also felt very jerky and cliche. While romances are usually made to make the story more interesting and establish character relations, it fell flat for me.
My next points are more personal and may not bother everyone, so take what I say with a grain of salt. Marriages of convenience is a trope that comes up several times in the book, and I find myself not enjoying it. Forced proximity works for me in certain cases, but arranged marriages always leave a sour taste in my mouth. I also don't like religious extremism and this book had a fair amount of it as well.
Finally, we arrive at the end of the book where the resolution seemed awfully convenient. So convenient, in fact, that I forgot that this was the first installment in a series and that there was more story to come. I think I would have preferred if this was a standalone and that everything was fully wrapped up by the end as there doesn't seem to be much more room to extend the story.
In all honesty, I don't fully understand the structure of this world. We have the Wilderwood and all the areas surrounding it, including where our main characters came from. I thought that the woods was a one-way route; what goes in stays in. Needless to say, I was rather confused by the fact that you could actually leave the woods. This idea also opened up plot holes for me that upends pretty much the entire story.
I am also confused about the Wilderwood in general as it is portrayed as this powerful sentient force, but not enough information is given as to why it is the way it is. When you center your story around a specific place, especially one that seems to have a mind of its own, I need to know everything about it as it aids in my understanding of the world and plot as a whole.
A lot of the story was driven by split-second decisions on behalf of the characters, which is a personal pet peeve of mine when it comes to character development. I simply don't like it when the plot is driven by impulsive characters. It makes the events in the story seem contrived as things could have been avoided entirely if the character just thought straight. But then again, we wouldn't have much of a story without it so I have to concede.
Our main character Red was no exception to impulsive behaviour, unfortunately. I found her to be rather short-sighted, which may not be a fault for everyone, but for me, it is a rather frustrating quality. It is made worse by the fact that this was her most dominant personality trait besides her need to help everyone.
Aside from these less-than-ideal qualities, the character development was also predictable, especially when it came to the antagonists of the story. If you can tell right off the bat that there's something off about a character, it ruins any sort of suspense or development.
Overall, this was an unoriginal story that was riddled with confusing world-building and a repetitive plot with too many holes.
Now, don't get me wrong, while I didn't particularly enjoy this, you may not have the same experience as me. On the whole, I don't get along well with retellings, but if you are someone who does, then maybe this will be a hit for you. If you did enjoy reading Uprooted or The Bear and the Nightingale, then odds are you will enjoy this as well.