When I saw that Jessica L. Randall had a fairytale adaptation to her name, I was super excited. I liked the charm of her Obituary Society book (I have the second one and just need to get around to using it) and was thrilled to see her turn her pen to a fairytale. Granted, it was Red Riding Hood, which isn't the most exciting to me, but still. So, how did it hold up?
It was okay. The story is about Elise, who comes from a family where the women are said to be witches. Her grandmother supposedly set wolves on her grandfather, killing him; her mother walked off into the woods and was never seen again; and her aunt serves as the village wisewoman, trying to put aside any witchy tendencies, but the townspeople won't really let her. Elise herself is inexplicably drawn to the woods, and only the golden cloak she wears--a cloak that was once her mother's--keeps her tethered enough to resist the forest's call. But as she begins having dreams that hint that something is hiding in the woods, waiting for her, farm animals begin showing up dead and a massive wolf is spotted around the town, Elise might not be able to resist the woods after all--not if she wants to survive with her family intact.
This wasn't a terribly twisty book; everything is laid out all nice and neat and there aren't any big surprises. There were a few times when I went, "Really? Oh, okay," but nothing that had my jaw dropping in shock or awe. Elise is a nice girl but not, I think, a particularly intriguing one; her little sister, Rosie, might have actually been more interesting had she been a bit older. (Rosie is Red Riding Hood, paired with Elise's Goldenhood.) Most Riding Hood adaptations tend to have one thing in common, which is werewolves, because that's the obvious place to go with it, and this isn't really any different in that respect. There's a light romance story line, but nothing too series; one sweet kiss is really as far as it goes. I thought the end would tie up a bit more neatly with Elise wanting to embrace magic and the title of witch or showing the villagers how things could be, with care, but it didn't go that way; instead, everyone tells a bunch of conflicting stories that everyone believes anyway, and no one questions any of the weird stuff that happened, which was kind of strange. Okay, really strange. That was a bit of a plot hole, really.
This is a short book, at 129 pages, which was another reason I picked it up; it helped fill in my "A book under 150 pages" category for a reading challenge. But I think Randall could have taken the time to add some more pages and flesh things out a little more, and the story would have benefited from it. It also would have benefited from another round of line edits; there are multiple instances of quotation marks in random places and typos such as "ee'll" instead of "we'll". It's nothing major, but enough to show that the book isn't really as polished as it could have been. Overall, it's not my favorite short fairy tale adaptation. That title still goes to Jill Myles' The Scarecrow King. But this was good, and I'd be interested in seeing other adaptations from Randall now that she has a bit more experience under her belt to work with.
3 stars out of 5.