Book Review: Red Hood’s Revenge by Jim C. Hines
Having just read some Larry Niven, I found myself in the mood for something a bit different. Instead of something ‘classic,’ something newer. Instead of something Sci-Fi, something Fantasy. Instead of a bunch of 1960’s space-hero dudes, something with actual female protagonists. So I looked at my ever-growing ‘to read’ pile, and pulled out Jim C. Hines’ Red Hood’s Revenge.
Red Hood’s Revenge is the third of Hines’ “Princess” series. I reviewed the second one awhile back, and the setup is still the same: fairy tale princesses having magical adventures. Silly, fluffy stuff- but good for a quick read. I just started watching RWBY on Netflix recently, so I think that might’ve put me in the mood for more ‘fairy tales with swordfights’ kind of media.
Hines’ Princess books center around Danielle (aka Cinderella), a woman with an unbreakable glass sword and the ability to speak to animals, Snow (I’ll let you guess who she is), a sexy sorceress with mirror-based magic and snowflake-shaped shurikens, and Talia (aka Sleeping Beauty), who uses her fairy-magic-given grace to flip out like a ninja. It makes sense in context. Honest.
Red Hood’s Revenge also brings in Roudette, The Lady of the Red Hood. Because of the whole fairy tale remix thing, Roudette is a deadly assassin sent to cause trouble for Danielle & Co. Oh, and Roudette is also a werewolf, because duh. She’s at least the “turn into a wolf when you put on a wolfskin” kind, instead of the “every full moon” variety. Folklore! Roudette, like the other fairy tale girls, has a detailed background explaining why she has her magic powers (and anger issues). Hines does a good job of viewing the classic fairy tales through a darker lens. This isn’t just slapping swords onto your standard Disney princesses; it’s something … grimmer.
I will not apologize for that joke.
Anyway, Danielle and her friends find out that Roudette was sent after them by Talia’s eeeeevil Mother in Law (well, former Mother in Law, as Talia kind of killed the prince who knocked her up- it’s complicated). One botched teleport spell later, they find themselves in Talia’s vaguely Arabic homeland, where they have to uncover the eeeeevil fairy plot that threatens to destroy the kingdom. Adventure ensues.
Red Hood’s Revenge is a pretty standard fantasy adventure. I mean, heck, you could easily map character classes to the main characters. Talia’s the rogue, Snow’s the sorceress, and Danielle is a Fighter who took a class or two in Druid. The D&D-esque comparisons don’t end there, as there’s even a dungeon crawl (well, it’s a sewer, but still), complete with goblins. None of this is a bad thing, mind you, as Hines is a talented enough writer to make the adventure pretty interesting. Even with the remixed backstories and fairy magic, Red Hood’s Revenge is still more coherent than that Maleificent movie that came out a couple of years ago.
I found the pacing and action to be a lot tighter in Red Hood’s Revenge than in the previous book, The Mermaid’s Madness, so Hines definitely gets points there. On top of that, while a lot book is set in a sandy, arid, and vaguely Arabic kingdom, Hines never brings in an eeeeeevil Islam analogue or other overt racism. Talia’s homeland isn’t as fleshed out as Saladin Ahmed’s Dhamsawaat, but it works well enough. Hines might have missed an opportunity to bring in some Arabian Nights style fairytales in there too. On the other hand, a book containing Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood, and Scheherazade (Or Sinbad, or whoever) could’ve gotten really crowded really quickly.
Now that I think about it, Red Hood’s Revenge may be my favorite of Hines’ Princess books so far. The first one, The Stepsister Scheme, was all about introducing Danielle (the most boring of the trio), to the “Charlie’s Princesses” team. The Mermaid’s Madness was kind of janky in its plot structure, since a lot of the action had to take place at sea/underwater, which makes things difficult. Red Hood’s Revenge has a more straightforward narrative. On top of that, the new characters in Red Hood’s Revenge are tied into Talia’s backstory, which allows for a tighter plot. Honestly, you could probably start reading the series with this one and not miss too much.
Red Hood’s Revenge certainly isn’t going to change your life, but if you’re in the mood for a quick bit of fantasy adventure, it’s definitely worth a read. There’s definitely worse stuff out there.