Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Red Hood's Revenge

Red Hood’s Revenge is the 3rd of Jim C. Hines Princess books. As the title implies this time the fairytale that Hines has elected to explore is that of Little Red Riding Hood. In the style of the series the author has altered the character from the story. Her name is Roudette and she goes by the professional name of Red Hood, so called because of the magical cape she wears. She’s no innocent child either, Roudette is a cold blooded assassin. The only one of her marks who ever got away was the Princess Talia Malak el-Dahshat (better known as Sleeping Beauty),and she is now one of Princess Danielle Whiteshore (Cinderella) of Lorindar’s best friends.

After Danielle, Talia and Snow (White) manage to bust Rumpelstiltlskin, break up his kidnapping racket, free the kids and send the nasty little creature, under heavy guard, to Fairytown to face trial for his actions, they receive a message from Roudette. She’s intercepted the prisoner, killed him, his human accomplice and his guard and sent a message to Danielle with her one remaining step sister’s Charlotte’s toes. The assassin knows that Danielle’s nature won’t allow her to harm anyone, even someone who was as nasty to her as Charlotte, and offers to deal with her alone for the return of the step sister. Naturally Talia and Snow aren’t about to let that happen, so go along with her. Roudette is taken into custody, but activates the spell she’s placed on Charlotte before she can be charged with anything, and the girls end up being transported with her to the eastern kingdom of Arathea.

Arathea is Talia’s home. She was meant to be it’s ruler, but then the spell that was placed on her plunged the kingdom into a long civil war. Rather than be used as a pawn by the new rulers, who had allied with the fairies that cursed Talia in the first place, and then ‘rescued’ Talia and forced her into a union with their prince, using her sons as insurance, Talia killed her husband and took off. She’s still wanted for that murder in Arathea.

Readers find out Roudette’s story, what made her into a killer and about the revenge she hungers for, she does a 180 from villain to hero. There is also the struggle for the kingdom of Arathea, and how the girls are determined to put things right. Someone from Talia’s past alters the relationship between she and Snow. This is likely to carry over into Book 4 (The Snow Queen’s Shadow).

I liked Jim Hines’ take on the Red Riding Hood legend, he gave it some more depth, she also carried a very interesting weapon. Talia has her zaraq whip and Roudette favoured a hammer. I love Arabian Nights flavoured tales and I’ve always hoped that Hines would use the girls to visit one of them, given Talia’s eastern origins. Arathea was right out of 1001 Nights with it’s deevs and peris and desert dwelling nomads. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get at least one djinn or flying carpet.

It’s a fitting addition to what is a fun series and I have to confess a bit of a guilty pleasure. The only misgiving I have with the books is the overwhelming female bias. I know that the author is male and the books are all about girl power, but I think at times it’s a little heavy handed and has been taken to extremes. All the major villains and heroes are female, most of the societys are matriarchal, while Lorindar is ruled by Theodore, and his reign will go to his son; Armand, everyone is aware that Queen Beatrice is the power behind Theodore’s throne, and I’ve rarely seen a prospective ruler as hen pecked as Armand. As a male reader I occasionally get the feeling that nearly all the male characters (good or bad) are either inconvenient or incompetent, quite often both. The only exception I can think of is the fairy ambassador; Trittibar, and he plays a fairly minor role. It doesn’t spoil my enjoyment of the books overall, but it does occasionally make me pause. You can write about strong female characters without having to marginalise or belittle the male ones.

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