Book Review: Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce

SERIES: Fairy Tale Retellings, #1
SHELVES: Young adult, fantasy (fairy tales, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, werewolves), romance
MORE INFO: Goodreads
DATE READ: 05 January 2014
RATING: ★★★★
SUMMARY: Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris—the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She’s determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls’ bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett’s only friend—but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they’ve worked for?

REVIEW: Spoilers ahead. I admit that I have a weakness for works featuring well-written sister dynamics (especially those with protective older sisters with good intentions, like Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma, because that just speaks to me). And Sisters Red is one of those books. Compounded with the Red Riding Hood fairy tale (another weakness of mine, oops), I couldn’t help but love this book.

I really enjoyed the German background of the story and the mythology. I’m pretty sure the term “Fenris” actually has Nordic roots, given that Fenrir is a demon in Norse mythology, but the roots are generally pretty consistent. Scarlett and Rosie referred to their grandmother as Oma March, and Silas’s family, a line of woodsmen and women that have been hunting Fenris for generations, have Germanic roots.

One of the most refreshing aspects of the book was Scarlett’s sexuality. Yes, it makes for an interesting dichotomy when put next to Rosie and Silas’s relationship, but it also shatters the idea that heroines end up in relationships. But what Scarlett loves is the hunt—her knowledge and ability to protect the innocent from monsters they don’t even know existed. Scarlett being asexual was handled really well without it being a cop out, like I’ve nearly come to expect in fiction.

Maybe it’s because I’m an older sister, but I really felt like the sister dynamic between Scarlett and Rosie was so realistic. It felt like the least fictional part of the story. I could almost identify with Scarlett’s willingness to sacrifice herself to protect her sister, and Rosie’s survivor’s guilt and feelings of owing her life to her sister were palpable in everything she did (or didn’t do).

I love how Silas encouraged Rosie to pursue her own interests, but only to a point. He respects Scarlett and Rosie’s relationship, and his friendship with Scarlett further solidifies his intimacy with the March sisters. They’re a unit, as hunters and as a family. I was a little suspicious when he revealed that he used to have feelings for Scarlett because it seemed really random, especially given his relationship with Rosie, but it went pretty well.

The plot is different from other Red Riding Hood adaptations I’ve read or watched. Scarlett, Rosie, and Silas generally hunt Fenris in their small hometown, but when they learn that the Fenris are looking for a Potential (a man who can be bitten and turned into a Fenris for a certain period of time), they move to bigger hunting grounds.

I don’t know if the foreshadowing was just really clear or if I’m just really familiar with the set-up of YA plots, but as soon as they learn that Potentials have to be at an age that is a multiple of seven, I knew the Potential was Silas. The reader learns that Silas is 21 fairly early in the book, and while that information isn’t irregular or suspicious in and of itself, learning more about the Potential helped me reach that conclusion pretty early.

Also, that plot twist. Wow. I actually cried a bit when they see that one of the Fenris bit Silas, especially when Silas reminds Scarlett that she promised to kill him if he ever turned. (Any promise along those lines in any situation is pretty emotionally compromising for me.) But when they find out that he’s safe, it’s even more emotionally compromising because Rosie and Silas can have that future they so tentatively dreamed of, and Scarlett learns to let go of her sister.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of fairy tales and their modern adaptations. If you like Once Upon A Time (which, in my opinion, has some interesting fairy tale modern adaptations but is a weak show overall), then you’ll definitely enjoy Sisters Red.

I plan to read the rest of the series, which include adaptations of Hansel and Gretel and The Snow Queen, and will review them here after I’ve finished them.

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