Title: For the Wolf
Author: Hannah Whitten
Publication date: June 1, 2021
One Sentence Summary: As the Second Daughter, Red is for the Wolf of the darkly magical Wilderwood, but she quickly learns the stories are not quite accurate, and her older sister is desperate to do anything to get her back.
The best way I can describe For the Wolf is “Little Red Riding Hood” wanders into Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, but Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs doesn’t want to be eclipsed and “The Snow Queen” is desperate to dig her claws in. For anyone looking for an easy fantasy read that scrambles fairy tales together, this is a magical read. Otherwise, for those looking for a “Little Red Riding Hood” retelling, this isn’t it. I loved how easy it was to fly through the story. As fantasy, it’s probably one of the least complicated plots with just a couple of major ones running through it. It’s really more of a love story, which was sweet, and about the bond between twin sisters, which was powerful. In reality, as the first in a trilogy, For the Wolf is almost entirely set up, so it felt like only the first major plot point in the overall story was hit.
Valleyda is the only country that borders the Wilderwood, where the Five Kings have been imprisoned for centuries. It’s cold and frozen, but holds power over the rest of the world as it’s sacrifice to the Wolf may one day bring back the Five Kings. The sacrifice? Any second daughter born to the queen. There have only been three, and Red is about to be the fourth.
Neve, as the older twin, is for the throne. Red, the younger twin, is for the Wolf, to be sent to the Wilderwood on her twentieth birthday if the Mark doesn’t appear on her arm beforehand and pulls her to the Wilderwood. Four years before, Neve and Red tried to destroy the woods, but Red instead ended up with a splinter of magic she’s had to work hard to suppress since. It doesn’t stop Neve and her intended Arick, who loves Red more, from trying to keep Red from the Wilderwood. But Red is ready to go, ready to protect her loved ones from the strange magic she now possesses.
In the Wilderwood, the Wolf only wants to send Red away, to release her from the duties his parents doomed him to, even if it means bleeding himself dry. He holds her at a distance, but Red is determined to stay, just as, back in the capital, Neve is determined to somehow free her sister, quickly becoming tangled in a priestess’s scramble for power. The Wilderwood, though, wants something, needs something.
For the Wolf is a satisfying read to fairy tale lovers. It’s an interesting blend of multiple tales that end up working well together. The world is detailed, especially the Wilderwood, and the characters have motivations that run deep. However, it’s all completely world building and set up. The main story in this first book almost felt like an afterthought, but was certainly twisted in a darkly fun kind of way.
I flew through this book, constantly surprised with just how easy it was to read. I usually expect fantasy to be more on the cumbersome and complex side, but this one is, pleasantly, not. It’s almost quick and easy and the story flows really well. But, by the time I was nearing the end, I realized most of the book was set up and world building. The world and its history is neatly laid out and makes thorough sense and the Wilderwood is describe in aching detail. Since most of the story is set in the Wilderwood, it pays close attention to detail and works hard to bring it to life. It’s dark and creepy and full of monsters lurking just below the surface. I would definitely not want to go into it. Other than one sister trying to free the other and the other trying to get the Wolf to let her stay, there wasn’t actually a ton going on.
Most of For the Wolf is wrapped up in the love story between Red and the Wolf. It’s expected, predictable, but they take a long time to get there. Red is determined to do her duty, to aid the Wolf in his, while the Wolf is desperate to get Red out of there, to protect her at all costs until he has no choice because she’s that stubborn. I loved Red and the Wolf. Their hurts and pains run deep, rivaled only by their stubbornness. It was fun to read about the Wolf trying to sidestep her all the time, but I wish to have gotten some of the story from his perspective, to make the romance just a little stronger because reading his feelings was really hard. He’s scarred and hurting and is desperate to protect.
The rest of the story was that of sisters. As twins, Neve and Red are close. Neve is willing to do anything to get her sister back, while Red seems to choose the Wolf over her sister, though she’ll be there for Neve as much as she can. Neve has no idea just how wrong the stories can be, so is easily lured into a priestess’s trap. Kiri wants power and is willing to manipulate everyone around her, using their desires to twist them into doing what she wants. It’s a dark, delicious plot and I really want more of Kiri and her deviousness.
For the Wolf is a bloodthirsty book. It’s stark and works hard to make the Wilderwood a forbidding place. It’s strength is in the world building, though I couldn’t really say how exactly the magic works, and the deep characterizations. Every character wants something, and those somethings often clash as some have the real stories and others have what the world wants to believe, and they’re all willing to bleed. There was so much bleeding I was almost nauseous. Initially, everything seemed quite black and white: save the Five Kings and the world will be set right. Except the stories twisted the truth.
For the Wolf delivers as a book of fairy tales. It’s dark and romantic with a detailed world and incredible characters. I do wish it had pulled back on the “Little Red Riding Hood” a bit as it felt a little confining and like it was trying too hard to tie into the title, but, overall, I liked that it’s a relatively uncomplicated fantasy and focuses on romantic and sisterly love.
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Thank you to Angela Man at Orbit for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.