The premise is enticing — a retelling of the classic “Little Red Riding Hood” set in modern times, where the main characters are fighters of the Fenris, or the wolves who haunt and torment (primarily) younger, innocent, and naive girls. Scarlett and Rosie’s grandmother had been killed by one, and they made it their mission to kill them and save the lives of countless others. It also helps they have a suave guy in Silas, a neighbor whose family was also haunted by the Fenris, to help them take with the takedowns. And what would a good story like this be without a little romance (Silas and Rosie) and a little twist in the plot where one of the characters you think is good is actually bad? It’s no surprising plot twist if you’ve read even one paranormal/fairy tale retelling in your life.
Sisters Red stood out to me for its strong writing and well developed back story. However, for all of the world building in the first half of the book, I felt the story began to fall apart right around when we find out one of the people we liked is actually, maybe evil. It felt like a convenient way to segway into an ending for the story, when the author could have taken this as an opportunity to go in an entirely new direction. I felt what made sense in the first half of the book for this world fell into sinews in the second half — the story of why the Fenris exist never made sense to me in a logical way. That is, it was never once apparant how the heck Scarlett could have figured out the puzzle. She spent a lot of time researching but never once giving readers any insight into what she was learning, and the final conclusion came out of left field. I wasn’t with the story from here on out since this piece was not as logically developed as it should have been. Perhaps this has to do with my lack of being family with the original fairy tale (see below!).
Character development was strong, though I found Scarlett to be overbearing and Rosie herself to be far too weak. Time and time again she let Scarlett walk all over her, and Scarlett simply used the excuse that she saved Rosie’s life. I wanted Rosie to come more into herself and stand up to her sister. Silas was well done, though at times he felt more like a convenience to the plot, rather than a central character.
Sisters Red will have wide appeal, and I think that this will be the story that propels Pearce into the spotlight as a YA author. It’s delightfully urban, but it’s relatable, too. There’s love and romance, strong family relationships, and the fairy tale elements. As a reader, I didn’t pick up enough of the “Little Red Riding Hood” back story, but that made me realize that perhaps I do not know the real Grimm’s tale. So, guess what this book is making me want to do? It’s always a plus when a book urges you to read more. And I think anyone who pursues the original tale might come back to this story and see a lot more here.
Although Pearce’s story falls into a lot of the tropes other paranormal stories do, the fairy tale elements make it stand apart. There’s a little more working here. Serious fantasy fans may not be impressed, but this isn’t written for that audience. It, to me, felt like a bridge book for those interested in trying something new and different without losing some element of books they typically enjoy.
Sisters Red will be out in June. I’m a little bummed to report this will be a series (seriously?) BUT this one definitely would stand alone without any issues.
* Copy provided so kindly by the publisher.
Kelly Jensen is a former librarian turned editor for Book Riot. She's the author of IT HAPPENS: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader and the forthcoming Feminism For The Real World (Algonquin Young Readers, Spring 2017).