Monday, August 23, 2010
Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf? Well, if you're young, pretty and have a personality that is as fluttery as the wings of a sparkling dragonfly, then you probably should be...
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce (Hodder Children's Books)
I am a huge fan of fairytale retellings and adaptations, so when I first stumbled upon Sisters Red, which - if you haven't guessed by the title, is loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood - I was incredibly excited.
The story premise is a rather unique one. I loved the fact that Jackson Pearce manages to take an old classic and put her own stamp on it.
Having said that though, you should be warned that Sisters Red is a darker and much more violent take on the original children's classic, something which I found did work for some parts, but at other times thought that the violence was more than a little disconcerting for a YA novel.
What the book is about:
Scarlett and Rosie March are two sisters who live in a little cottage that seems to be on the outskirts of the world. The girls have an unbreakable bond, a bond which was cemented right from the start, when a bloodthirsty werewolf (these wolves are called Fenris) attacked and killed their grandmother and left Scarlett severely injured.
As a result, the girls have taken to hunting down these bloodthirsty predators.
Determined to protect her younger sister and other young girls that these vicious wolves enjoy preying on, Scarlett lives for the hunt and slaughters the wolves any given chance that she gets. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet, a blood-red cloak and a patch over the eye (removed by a Fenris), she fights with a dogged determination that is beyond obsessive.
Feeling that she owes Scarlett her life for protecting her when she was younger, Rosie hunts fiercely alongside her. But, when Silas, a young woodsman and old family friend (who just so happens to be skilled with an ax), enters the picture, Rosie begins to start dreaming of a life beyond constant hunting.
Yet, loving Silas is risky because not only would it mean betraying her sister and the unbreakable bond they have, but shocking secrets about Silas's family history could endanger their lives and tear them apart for good.
Ok, my thoughts.
For me, this was one of those books that I liked, yet wished I could have loved. The story is written in a dual-narrative structure and tells the story from both Rosie and Scarlett's point of view. Generally I don't mind this kind of structure and I definitely think that Jackson Pearce has the writing skills to pull this off.
But, here's the thing - I believe that if you're going to employ this kind of narrative structure, the characters, while they should have more than their share of flaws, shouldn't be altogether unlikeable and unfortunately, for me, Scarlett was one of the most unlikeable characters I've come across.
Before I come across as being an unsympathetic cow, let me explain. Here is a girl who has gone through so much, survived a wolf attack and bears the scars as proof.
Naturally it would be understandable that her experience would compel her drive to hunt and take revenge on the creatures that have caused her and her family harm. I get that. Really I do. I would even go as far as to say that I'd probably want to get my revenge in any form that I can.
But, here's the thing.
I think that Scarlett takes it too far. I would actually say that she's developed a borderline obsessive hero complex, but it's more than that. She lives, eats and breathes for hunting. She can't see beyond anything but the hunt and expects her sister (and Silas) to reason the same way that she does.
She's obsessive to the point of being incredibly annoying and incredibly inflexible. She rarely admits to being wrong and rarely apologises for what she perceives as something which is perfectly justifiable.
Because of her inflexibility, I could actually understand why Rosie goes behind her back to try and carve a life away from hunting, even though Rosie feels guilty. For this reason, I actually loved Rosie's character far more than I did Scarlett and found myself rooting for her throughout the novel.
For me, Rosie was the real star of the novel and showed strength of character that Scarlett's character lacked, even though Scarlett's physical abilities far outweighed those of Rosie's. She's sweet, thinks of her sister and tries hard to put her loyalty to her sister above her own needs and desires - which only made me like her character more.
I thoroughly enjoyed the romance between Rosie and Silas and thought that their relationship progressed at a steady pace which I felt definitely fit within the novel. What I also really enjoyed was the way in which Jackson Pearce portrayed the sisterly bond between Rosie and Scarlett - you can tell that these girls genuinely love each other and if it wasn't for this and for the Silas aspect, I probably wouldn't have been able to finish this novel.
On a final note, there is a twist in the novel, but anyone who reads this, will be able to see it coming from a mile away. Despite my issues with the novel, I definitely don't think this is a bad novel at all. It was just not as good as I was hoping it would be.
My final rating: 3 / 5 stars