Monday 7 March 2011

Review: Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright & David Leslie Johnson

I can't remember the last time a book made me feel so stabby.

Last Friday afternoon I was facing a two-hour train journey and had two books in my bag: A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and this little sucker (the red theme was pure coincidence). I first reached for Scarlet because I've been meaning to read it for awhile, but one sentence in and my Friday-arvo brain-mush was ready to fall asleep. So I turned instead to Red Riding Hood because a) A trashy read was just what I needed; and b) I was curious to find out who the damn wolf was after watching the movie trailer:

The introduction by director Catherine Hardwicke reveals that this novelisation (based on the Red Riding Hood sceenplay) is a more in-depth look at the characters and their back stories, which couldn't be shown in the time-limited movie (she also reveals the whole thing was based on an idea by Leonardo Dicarprio - random!). After getting halfway through the book on my two-hour trip, I was left thinking that maybe the movie will be worse than I anticipated, given that the characters and their back stories are basically non-existent in the book, and I'd hate to see what they look like with LESS development.

See, Valerie, our heroine, is different from the rest of the inhabitants of her village. We know this because we're told: "Even at the age of seven, she knew that, somehow, she was different from the other villagers." At the age of 17, she falls instantly in love when she sees her mysterious childhood friend, Peter, for the first time in 10 years. He's mysterious because we get approximately 12 words from him in the first 80 pages. Of course, she's betrothed without her knowledge to Henry Lazar, the son of the only rich man in town, whom every girl has the hots for. Except Valerie, of course. Coz, y'know, she's different. Oh, and there's a Wolf who's been terrorizing the village once a month for who knows how long (seriously, who knows? That back story is never explained). He (or she?) has been kept in check by animal sacrifices... until now. DUN DUN DUNNNN. 

The first part of the book is quite slow and the flowery language is in full bloom; I have to admit that if I hadn't been stuck on a train I probably wouldn't have kept reading. Interestingly, after I went on a mad googling session upon finishing the book (more on that in a sec) I discovered that this part is the "back story" that was added by Blakley-Cartwright, which gives me hope for the movie after all. Because the story does pick up after that and becomes much more interesting and better paced.

The best part of the book (and also the worst, but I'm getting to that) is that I wasn't able to guess the identity of the wolf. Sometimes I thought it was Henry, then Adrien, then Peter, then Grandma, then Mother, then Father, then Grandma, then Peter...  this thing keeps you guessing to the very end. Literally. Which brings me, finally, to why I felt so stabby and went on a Google bender: THERE IS NO ENDING. That's right, just an online pointer to a website that tells you that the final chapter WON'T BE RELEASED until March 25th. As in, after the movie comes out. Coz they don't want to spoil it and all. A fact which is especially frustrating when your primary motive for reading the book is to find out the ending of the movie. All I can say is: Grrrrrrrrrr.

Look, it won't stop me from seeing the movie. Or rushing online to read the last chapter when it's finally released. But the whole gimmick is just so insulting to a reader and seriously devalues the book. I definitely wouldn't recommend anyone else read it - at least until the movie/ending comes out!

Rating: 2/5
Talking Points
  • Did I mention the ending made me angry?
  • I seriously felt bad for Henry and preferred him SO MUCH to silent, broody Peter. There was so much more development to the Henry/Valerie relationship compared to the Peter/Valerie one. And no, vague flashbacks to when they were five and a random, silent, stolen horseback ride don't count as development.
  • I'd love to know more of the, ahem, back story about the Wolf - especially why, oh why, did the villagers not try to destroy it earlier? Or, I don't know, move away?!
  • I also want to know more about Grandmother. Like, why on earth is she living in a treehouse out in the forest all by herself with a Wolf on the rampage once a month?! Maybe this will be revealed in the movie/final chapter. Maybe it won't and I'll still feel angry.
  • What's the significance of the red cloak? Other than the title, obviously. It seems kinda mystical and was given to Valerie by none other than the witchy-possible-werewolf Grandmother. Once again, I hope the connection is explained!
Eye candy

Having already seen the movie trailer prior to reading the book, plus having Amanda Seyfried on the cover and all, it was kinda impossible not to picture her as Valerie. Which was fine, coz I think she's stunning.

Shiloh Fernandez (right) also kept popping into my head as Peter, which may have played a part in me not really rooting for him, coz I don't particularly find him attractive. From this picture I'm once again more drawn to Henry (played by Max Irons) - look at that jawline!

However, when I started reading the book I couldn't recall Henry in the trailer, and being on a train with no IMDB or YouTube handy, look who sprang to mind:

I still think Ben Barnes would be great, but from what I've seen of Max so far, I'm pretty satisfied with his casting. Especially after seeing this picture:


  1. Hey, I've just read your comment on my review of this over at Booking in Heels, so I just HAD to pop over and see what you wrote!

    I can't remember the last time a book made me feel so stabby. Yup, that sums it up perfectly.

    BUT it turns out that I hadn't read the last chapter either! NOWHERE in my copy does it state that the book isn't over! I honest-to-god thought I'd read the entire thing, but nope. ARRRGH! I'm genuinely irritated.

    1. Ugh I can't believe they're still selling it without the final chapter, ridiculous!

  2. After a lot of searching I found the bonus chapter. (The Red Riding Hood link led to a blank page.) The link is below. I scanned the QR code in the lower left hand corner with my iphone and it opened right up to the bonus chapter. I haven't even read it yet. I was so excited to find it I had to let the world know.