Saturday, September 5, 2009

Scarlet Moon

This retelling of the red riding hood story is perhaps better suited for the Once Upon a Time challenge than the current R.I.P Challenge, but it does have werewolves in it, and the woods are creepily evocative, so I'm making it an official R.I.P. IV challenge read.

Ruth is a survivor of a wolf attack, a terrifying incident that took place when she was a child walking in the woods with her older brother. Shortly afterward, her brother and cousin both leave for the holy land, called to fight with the Duke in the Crusades. In their absence Ruth grows up to become her father's right hand in the blacksmith's shop, despite the disapproval of some of the townsfolk. She is wary of the woods after her experience, but her grandmother lives there, having been exiled from the village on suspicion of witchcraft, and Ruth must travel through the woods in order to visit her.

Years pass without news of her brother and cousin. One day while working at the forge, she encounters a nobleman who is captivated by her strength and honesty. It seems like a fairytale that he should be interested in her - and she in him - but then a series of wolf attacks occurs at the village, and it seems everyone is hiding secrets...

This is a very short, sweet story with romance and an eerie atmosphere. I enjoyed the historical setting as well as the characters. Lucy is thoughtful and strong, and she values herself. Her father is a kind man, but he keeps to himself and is not one to discuss emotions, so it is lucky she has her grandmother to speak with. I particularly enjoyed this exchange between Lucy and her grandmother, as Lucy is trying to come to terms with her feelings for the dashing Earl of Lauton. Lucy admits to being frightened, and her grandmother asks her,
"Of what, dear?"
"Losing myself. When I look into his eyes I feel as though I am drowning, and I become terrified. What if he does have feelings for me? What if he even wants to marry me? All I've ever known is fire and steel, and I don't know how I'd give that up. I don't know who I'd be without them."
And the grandmother, who is a wise woman in more than one sense, tells her that it's not what Lucy does that dictates who she is. She goes on to say:
"I loved your grandfather, and we were very different people. In loving him, though, and marrying him, I didn't lose myself. Rather I gained something I had long been in want of. Love makes you more than what you are, not less. Besides, if you're worried that you'll miss 'fire and steel,' you needn't. The fire and steel are in you - they always have been."
I appreciated that discussion, particularly in a teen novel amidst so many that are of the "you complete me" and "I'm nothing without you" romantic philosophy (you know who you are).

I found the ending of the book to be a bit rushed, and things tied themselves up so quickly and neatly that it felt slightly disappointing. Still, this is an atmospheric, romantic tale with a dash of horror that will appeal to fans of fairytale retellings, fantasy, werewolves, romance, and historical fiction.

Scarlet Moon by Debbie ViguiƩ (Simon Pulse, 2004)

Also reviewed at:
Book Minx: "The best part of the story for me was probably Viguie’s descriptions of the forest and the atmosphere she created there. It was also great having the heroine not a dependent little snot prancing around the woods."
The Book Stacks: "This series has been especially popular with teens in my library, as indeed most fairy tale retellings have been lately."


  1. This one sounds good. I always like Little Red Riding Hood, only I always secretly thought that deep down the wolf and her were friends and they would play fetch and go on long walks. ;)

    I don't like the alternative. ha!

  2. I love the other books in this series. Definitely going to pick this one up.

  3. What an unusual retelling! Great review, thanks. The Angela Carter short story is another very different spin on the tale! Not for the faint-hearted.

  4. I love that passage! This definitely sounds like a book for me. And hmm, I wonder which teen novels you could possibly mean :P

  5. Ooooo! I love this idea. Red Riding Hood with werewolves, perfect. Love the grandmother's quote too! I'll add this to the List.

  6. Cat - I love your take on Red Riding Hood. I have a print by Scott Gustafson (one of my favorite children's book illustrators) that always makes me laugh, and it might just possibly support your friends theory. Check it out out here.

    RR2 - I hadn't heard of this series till I read this one. Which other ones have you enjoyed so far? I'll have to add them to my list!

    Mariel - It was a fun - very loose - retelling. The Angela Carter one, though, is my absolute favorite. Have you seen In the Company of Wolves?

    Nymeth - It would definitely be a good one for the next Once Upon a Time challenge, too!

    Nicola - It was a fun one. Hope you enjoy it!

  7. Oh wow! The Red Riding Hood in that photo is ADORABLE and the picture of innocence! I love it!

  8. I'm glad you like it, Cat. I have it hanging in my bedroom and it makes me smile every time I look at it. He does amazing illustrations! Some day I would love to have an original. :-)


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