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Friday, June 4, 2021

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten - Review

 

Official Author Website

Order For the Wolf (US) HERE


OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Hannah Whitten has been writing to amuse herself since she could hold a pen, and sometime in high school, figured out that what amused her might also amuse others. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, making music, or attempting to bake. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and children in a house ruled by a temperamental cat.

FORMAT/INFO: For the Wolf was published on June 1st, 2021 by Orbit Books. It is 430 pages split over 35 chapters and an epilogue. It is told from the third person POV of Red and Neve. It is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats. 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The First Daughter is for the throne. The Second Daughter is for the Wolf. That was the pact Valleydan made centuries ago with the magical Wilderwood. Any second daughter born to the royal family must be sent to the Wilderwood to live with the Wolf who keeps the monsters of the forest at bay. But unlike those who went before her, Red wants to go to the Wilderwood. For years she’s been hiding powers she can barely control, and going to the forest will stop her from harming those she loves dearly. But Red’s sister Neve is determined that the Second Daughter sacrifices will come to an end – even if that means turning to the darkest magic.

For the Wolf is a solid fantasy romance outing that will whisk you away to the woods for a few hours of enjoyable escapism. While the marketing has leaned heavily on the Red Riding Hood inspirations, this tale shares MUCH more in common with Beauty and the Beast, and I am nothing if not a sucker for that trope. The story deftly gets around the sometimes troublesome captive hang-ups of the framework by giving Red an out almost as soon as she shows up in the woods, making it perfectly clear that Red is choosing of her own free will to stay in the castle.

What follows after is a story of two people wracked with guilt about their pasts, each trying to take on more responsibility and pain than either can handle alone. For the Wolf doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to romance; if you’re on board for tortured male lead who slowly opens up to determined female lead who refuses to let the man take on everything by himself, you’re in for a great time. At times you may want to smack the Wolf upside the head for his insistence he can handle everything himself, but otherwise I enjoyed the growing relationship.

While the story is clearly pulling from Beauty and the Beast (shout out to the castle with the prominent library), it is only doing so in terms of certain thematic touchstones. For the Wolf is very much its own story, with its own plot beats, magic, and characters. Half the story is told from the point of view of Neve, Red’s sister, who is desperate to free her sibling from what she believes is a terrible fate. Neve’s story was an interesting juxtaposition to Red’s, providing a differing viewpoint to events as they unfold and showing the dangers of love as it turns to obsession.

Where the story falters a bit is in the overall mythology. The narrative doles out the “real story” behind the original Wilderwood bargain in tiny morsels, but instead of creating a captivating mystery, it kept me confused about what was going on. The words “gods” and “kings” at times seem to be used interchangeably, other times to mean two separate ideas. It left me confused about what the original bargain was for and what had happened to change things over time. Plenty of details that should have been laid out early were kept frustratingly vague; even if the kingdom doesn’t know what really happened, the reader should have a solid understanding of what SUPPOSEDLY happened, and that’s not the case here. While the vague mythology wasn’t enough to completely derail my enjoyment, it stopped the book from being a home run.

CONCLUSION:  For the Wolf works best when you accept it on its fairy tale terms. While the characters are a little on the thin side, they still pull you into their emotional drama as they try to deal with burdens and curses they never asked for. The author also does a wonderful job of capturing the beauty of the woods and the connection the characters have to it. I absolutely loved the climatic finale and the stakes it sets up for part two of this planned duology. For the Wolf is cozy escapism, and I look forward to returning to the Wilderwood for the sequel.

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