When I read Cruel Beauty last year, I was blown away by the Beauty and the Beast retelling. I adore retellings, but you know as well as I do that they don't always live up to our expectations. That isn't the case with Rosamund Hodge's novels. Because she doesn't just take one fairy tale and reimagine it for her readers. No, she takes that tale, joins it with another (that I usually haven't read before) and turns them completely on their head.
Crimson Bound is not a sequel to Rosamund's debut novel, nor is it even part of that universe. It's just another novel where she fuses a favorite tale -- this time it's Little Red Riding Hood -- with another, lesser-known story -- The Girl With No Hands, in this case -- thereby creating a lush, sophisticated world, gorgeous prose, and characters with questionable morals. I said in my review of Crimson Bound that her characters live in the gray areas, and I think that might have been my favorite aspect. Rosamund further explores moral ambiguity and insurmountable friendship in the piece of flash fiction she's written for you today.
The short story she's written for my stop is part three of a three-piece series, so be sure to catch the other two short stories on the tour! But before we get to that, here's a bit more about her sophomore novel:
Title: Crimson Bound
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible
When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.
Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?
Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.
(This is a standalone novel, not part of the Cruel Beauty Universe.)
Three Girls Who Met a Forestborn: The Woodwife
by Rosamund Hodge
In the world of Crimson Bound, the magic of the Great Forest can still threaten people. In the countryside, they have developed a tradition of "woodwives": women who have learned to work magic by knotting and weaving thread. The charms they make can ward off the power of the Great Forest, protect against sickness, or help crops grow faster. This story is about one girl who wanted to be a woodwife.
All alone in the forest, there is a house where nothing moves.
Neither humans nor forestborn have found it yet. Perhaps they never will.
This is how it began:
They were cousins. They were dearest friends. For as far back as they could remember, they were Cécile-and-Jeanette, two halves of a single whole. Cécile was the laughter, and Jeanette was the listening silence, and neither one made sense without the other.
"I'm going to be a woodwife someday," Jeanette whispered to Cécile one evening as they leaned against each other, watching the stars come out.
Cécile giggled. "I'm going to marry a prince," she said, and Jeanette believed that she could, for all that they lived in a tinyvillage at end far end of nowhere. Cécile was clever and pretty and never afraid of anything.
Then they were twelve, and it was Midsummer Night, when the village burned bonfires to keep the forestborn away, and the children dared each other to run deeper and deeper into the trees.
Cécile laughed, and ran, and didn't come back.
This is how it ended:
Jeanette sat waiting by the fireplace, her needle going click-clack as she knitted yarn into an endless, lacy froth. The stump where her right leg ended just below the knee ached. Outside, the snow was falling gently, inevitably, smotheringly.
The door banged open, and Cécile came in, carrying a brace of skinned rabbits. "Good afternoon," she called out.
Wearily, Jeanette said, "How many did you kill today?"
"Two," said Cécile, holding up the rabbits.
"I mean people," said Jeanette.
Cécile clucked her tongue. "I told you not to worry about that. They were awful to you."
"They were my village," said Jeanette. "They were my family."
"They called you bad luck and no use and they would have worked you till you died. They deserve to have me hunt them one by one. Do you want soup? I want soup."
She bustled to fetch a pot and start chopping the rabbits.
Jeanette knitted a while in silence. "Why did you do it?" she asked at last.
"For you," said Cécile.
"No," Jeanette sighed.
Cécile wrinkled her nose and then laughed. It was exactly like when they were children, and she had been caught in a lie. "All right, then. I did it because I was bored. And they hurt you."
"I mean," said Jeanette, "why did you become a forestborn?"
"I met a beautiful prince," Cécile sing-songed.
"They asked me to dance with them, and you know how I love dancing."
Jeanette waited still.
"I was human for nearly a year after they took me," said Cécile, as lightly as she had spoken before. "I cried so much, you have no idea, and so many times it was because I missed you."
She paused, and then went on, her voice soft and dreamy, "They kept me as a pet. You learn some things in the dark, chained up with other pets. You learn what anyone will do. And when you get the chance, you do it."
She spun around, to smile at Jeanette. "And now I will never weep again."
"Come," said Cécile. "There's a speech you always make, about how you love me still."
The silence was long and raw between them, and then Jeanette said slowly, regretfully, "I am a woodwife."
Cécile rolled her eyes. "You failed as a woodwife."
"I lost my leg in the accident, and nobody wanted to train a woodwife who couldn't run to a sickbed," said Jeanette. "So they sent me home. But in my heart, I am a woodwife. And I am going to stop you."
"You cannot kill me," said Cécile. "Even if you could, you still won't."
"No," said Jeanette. "I won't." Her knitting needles went click-clack.
"I know that's a woodwife charm you're knitting," said Cécile, "but I know you never learned anything powerful enough to hurt me."
"It's the first charm I ever learned," said Jeanette. She shifted in her chair, and the frothy knitting spilled out of her lap to puddle at her feet. "For making babies sleep. Actually, it's the only charm I ever learned."
Cécile laughed. "You always were a little stupid," she said.
"Yes," said Jeanette. "When you kidnapped me--I thought, for so long, that I could save you."
"Never," said Cécile. "Never, never, never." She knelt before Jeanette and rested her hands on her knees. "I have seen the hunger at the heart of the world, and I will be its mistress, not its food."
Her head started to drift down, then jerked back up.
"What," she gasped.
"I knitted a sleeping charm," said Jeanette. "A stupid, simple sleeping charm, over and over and over, all these past three weeks. Why did you think I asked you for so much yarn?"
Cécile clambered to her feet, but then she swayed, and collapsed. Jeanette caught her.
"Nobody . . . will thank you," said Cécile. Her voice was thick and clumsy with sleep. "Even . . . if you bring them my head. Never believe . . . you didn't help me."
"I won't go back," said Jeanette, shifting Cécile to rest her head in her lap. "I'm not strong enough to walk through the snow. Or resist the charm."
Cécile's eyes widened. And then they shut. She let out a sigh, and she might have been trying to say, "No," but if she was angry at her own doom or at Jeanette's, there was no way to know.
Jeanette pressed a kiss into Cécile's hair.
Her own eyelids were growing heavy. She would sleep soon; the charm was very strong. If the villagers found them, they would burn the house with them in it. If not, they would sleep forever.
"Here is the speech," she whispered. "You are my friend, my dearest friend. And you are a forestborn, and you have killed so many people." She yawned, smoothing a strand of Cécile's hair. "And I love you still."
She closed her eyes to rest.
If that doesn't make you want to know more about the Forestborn, I don't know what will. And how lovely that I get to showcase this piece -- on my birthday, no less -- and that it features a character with my given name! It's like the stars are aligning just for me! (That, or Wendy is the best tour host evar, and Rosamund just knows a good name when she sees one. :D) In all seriousness, though, if even a part of you likes dark fairy tales that are equal parts thrilling and romantic, you HAVE to check out Crimson Bound!
About the author:
Rosamund Hodge loves mythology, Hello Kitty, and T. S. Eliot. She writes YA fantasy that draws on two of those things. In her wild youth, she studied Medieval English at Oxford; she now lives in Seattle and writes wildly.
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Thanks to HarperTeen, we're giving away two prizes! The first prize is a bundle of Rosamund Hodge books, including hardback copies of CRIMSON BOUND and CRUEL BEAUTY, and the second prize is a giveaway for the fantastic audiobook narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden. Let us know in the comments which of the two you'd prefer, or if you're open to either one.
Open to U.S. and Canadian residents, see entry form for complete details.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
4/20/2015 - The Midnight Garden - Fairy Tale Inspiration: Little Red Riding Hood & The Girl with No Hands
4/21/2015 - Mundie Moms - Cosmetics for Badasses
4/22/2015 - Two Chicks on Books - Audiobook Clip + Interview
4/23/2015 - YA Romantics - Flash Fiction #1
4/24/2015 - Cuddlebuggery - The Obligatory Strong Heroine Post
4/27/2015 - YA Midnight Reads - Writing a Bad Girl/Good Boy Romance
4/28/2015 - Alice Marvels - Flash Fiction #2
4/29/2015 - The Daily Prophecy - Interview
4/30/2015 - The Social Potato - Death Before Dishonor
5/1/2015 - The Starry-Eyed Revue - Flash Fiction #3
The tour is designed so that readers may earn extra giveaway points by visiting each stop. And as I mentioned earlier, this is part three of a three-part series of short stories, so you'll definitely want to check out the other two stories.