By Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Genre: Christian Fiction
Published 2011, Bethany House Publishers
Paperback, 375 pages
Rose Red trusts no one with her secret. She hides in the forest, her face veiled in rags, shunning the company of all save her old father and her nanny goat. Her life is bleak and lonely.I am always a fan of fairy re-tellings, even if it is for a fairy tale I am not actually familiar with, as that of Rose Red. It took me awhile, but I also gathered that the book is a kind of Christian allegory, and parts remind me of Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.
Until she meets a privileged young man sent to spend his summer in the mountains. Leo, a lonely lad, befriends Rose Red, and together they begin hunting for the Mountain Monster which, rumor says, stalks these lands.
But the hunt which began as a game holds greater risk than Leo supposes. Rose Red can scarcely guess at the consequences should he insist on continuing his search. Dare she trust him with her secret? Or tell him what dwells at the top of the mountain in the cave only she can find?
Above all, when Leo asks Rose Red to leave the mountain and follow him to the low country, dare she agree and risk the wrath of a Monster that is all too real?
Rose Red is by far the most intriguing character, as her birth is shrouded in mystery, her friends are animals with voices, and she cloaks herself in veils and layers to hide even the smallest scrap of skin from any prying eyes - including her own. The shame she bears for her own appearance is so great that her very existence is surrounded by grand tales of monsters and demons told by all of the local villagers, yet she bears a strength much greater than she appears to possess and she has a kind of magic that allows her to walk the secret Paths and face down death in all its forms. Even at the end of the book, I could not fully grasp who or what she is.
Leo manages to find and befriend Rose Red in boyhood, but he has a burden of his own as Prince Lionheart of Southlands, destined to become King. Leo knows his responsibilities, but he secretly just wants a friend and to make people laugh as a court jester. These polar opposites manage to pull him across the world again and again as he struggles with the simple question, "What do you want?"
Many other characters litter the pages of the book, which was at times confusing as I attempted to deduce which creature or character was on the side of good or evil, such as the Dragon - which became apparent at its occupation of Southlands. As an allegory for Christianity, some characters were clear - such as the Prince, but others were murkier, such as the Lady.
The structure of the book itself was off-putting for me. The book is divided into five parts, with chapters in each part, but in between each part a vague sense of time has passed, so that the reader cannot pick up where the last chapter left off. At each break, I would get the feeling that the plot was picking up, only to be let down that the climactic moments have been glossed over. I also really disliked the ending. Certain things are expected of classic fairy tales, and none of this was included in the ending of this book. Perhaps the author was aiming for something more "realistic" or to simply get the reader to continue the series, but loose endings this big make me feel like I wasted my time reading the book, only to get no satisfaction at the finale.
The Cover:I love all of the details in cover while still maintaining some mystery. I was so intrigued by the cover that I kept returning to it while I read the book.
First Line: "Hill House, though abandoned, had remained unscathed during the years of the Dragon's occupation."
Oh, that sentence is just filled with questions - what is Hill House, what is the Dragon, and what occupation? Of course, I had to keep reading.
Read For: TBR Pile Reading Challenge, Read Your Own Books Reading Challenge, Young Adult Reading Challenge
*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*