Sarah Blakley-Cartwright: Red Riding Hood (2011) The Book Based on the Movie

Valerie’s sister was beautiful, kind, and sweet. Now she is dead. Henri, the handsome son of the blacksmith, tries to console Valerie, but her wild heart beats fast for another: the outcast woodcutter, Peter, who offers Valerie another life far from home.
After her sister’s violent death, Valerie’s world begins to spiral out of control. For generations, the werewolf has been kept at bay with a monthly sacrifice. But no one is safe. When an expert wolf hunter arrives, the villagers learn that the creature lives among them – it could be anyone in town.
It soon becomes clear that Valerie is the only one who can hear the voice of creature. The Wolf says she must surrender herself before the Blood Moon wanes . . . or everyone she loves will die..

A few months ago I was browsing the Internet looking for the website of Fever Ray and that’s how I found the trailer of the movie Red Riding Hood for which Fever Ray has done the soundtrack.

There are hundreds of fairytale retellings out there. The range is incredible. From literary fiction to pulpy trash you find everything.

Ever since I have read Angela Carter’s Fairytale retellings and watched the movie The Company of Wolves I had a particular liking for the Little Red Riding Hood retellings. It has a few powerful elements that not all other fairy tales have, first of all the wolf and the red cloak. When it comes to the original fairytale it is far from being one of my favourites but what it inspires newer authors to do is often interesting.

For these reasons there was no way around the book Red Riding Hood as soon as I discovered it. The book is actually based on the movie, which makes the marketing strategy clear. This is even enhanced once you realize that what you hold in your hand isn’t the complete book. The last chapter is missing and can only be read online. This isn’t such a problem by now, as the movie has been released, but when I started reading, the chapter wasn’t accessible yet because the movie wasn’t playing.

The wolf in this version, like in some of the other retellings, is a werewolf. During the Blood Moon he lurks in the darkness and comes out of his hiding to kill the people of Daggorhorn. He hasn’t done so for a long time because he normally gets an offering but different circumstances lead to the killing of Valerie’s sister and from there to the death of other villagers. There is no stopping the wolf anymore.

The book works pretty much like a paranormal thriller. It is suspected that the werewolf must be from the village. Someone among the people they all know is transforming himself during the Blood Moon. Like in a proper thriller, there are many suspects. Red herrings abound and you really have to read until the final (online) chapter to find out who is the killer. Insofar it is quite gripping. I think it is possible to find out who it is but it is still entertaining.

What did not work for me are the characters. With the exception of the grandmother they are quite flat and interchangeable. The grandmother however is interesting, a witch-like, potion-cooking old woman who lives outside of society.

Another thing I didn’t like are the inconsistencies in the story. I had a feeling it was written very fast and there were really tacky moments too.

This probably sounds as if I had regretted to read this book but this is absolutely not the case. The descriptions are what I really liked. The little village, lost in the forest, the narrow medieval streets, the picturesque settings and most of all the house of the grandmother. The description of that house made the whole reading worthwhile. The grandmother lives in a tree house, outside of the fear-ridden village, high above everyone else. The interior of that house, the security it provides, is described very appealingly. I’m not going into details, those who want to read the novel should discover this for themselves.

All in all it was a fast read, a bit boring at times but still enjoyable and worthwhile thanks to the descriptions and settings. I shouldn’t forget to mention that there is also a romance part in the novel that did not work so well, or rather, the conflict keeping the lovers apart didn’t work.

I think you gathered that it is nowhere near as good as other retellings of the fairytale that’s why I decided to dedicate another post to a few of the really stunning examples.

Here is the Book’s Homepage with the final chapter.

I haven’t seen the movie yet but I might watch it since I like Fever Ray and Gary Oldman.

Red Riding Hood is my first contribution to the Once Upon a Time Challenge.