As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.
Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.
But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood- and her world -whole.
*I was sent an ARC of this novel by Orbit Books, massive thank you to Nazia as always for sending this one my way*
For the Wolf was every bit the gothic, beautiful, foreboding sentient forest novel of my dreams with a broody brave boy x passionate headstrong girl as our main characters who I loved more than words can possibly express. I loved how Hannah Whitten has spun the red riding hood tale and made it even darker and creepier and instilled it with strong world building and a political and religious power struggle in the background which really serves to enrich the story.
I really liked the basis of the plot; Red and Neve are twin sisters and best friends, and despite their close childhood they have always known that their eventual fates could not be more different. Neve is the first daughter and is born to rule the kingdom of Valleyda, while Red as the second daughter is for the wolf, having to walk into the woods to appease him and enable the return of the once mythical kings. The relationship between Neve and Red was so well written and genuine and it was so interesting reading how they each navigate their respective responsibilities which are overwhelming to say the least.
I think the vitality of their sisterly bond is even more striking due to the coldness of their mother, Queen Isla. I think Whitten touches upon a really interesting thread with this mother / daughter relationship and her aloof nature is kind of understandable when you consider the women from their family have always had this burden of ‘first and second daughters’. As a result she has never let herself get attached to her children, regardless if it hurts them all. This fractured family dynamic is mentioned repeatedly within the novel, and while it’s not a focal point, it definitely adds a lot in terms of the characters backstories.
I loved how the wilderwood feels like a sentient being of sorts, it’s so atmospheric and the shadow it casts over the story and the characters is massive. Now I’m not easily scared and I love horror so I really enjoyed how foreboding and genuinely creepy the woods were and how it quite literally is out for blood. I also think the way that Whitten has intertwined the lore of the woods and the magic system is so great and it all fits into place so well.
Both Red and Eammon aka The Wolf have a strange connection with the wilderwood and their abilities are pivotal in maintaining the balance and this is a role that Eammon has taken on himself without seeking any help. I really appreciated how steadfast and brave he was and Red is definitely his equal, even if he didn’t want to admit it at first. He’s brooding, brave and tortured and I don’t want to say I have a type when it comes to fictional guys but I may have a type.
I knew going in that there would be romance in this but I thought it would somehow take second place to the fantasy element but I was really happy when reading to find that the romance was still pretty important. I loved how slow burn it was and the pining between Red and Eammon was so sweet. Their dynamic just works on so many levels and I love when characters are bound together and despite trying to resist that pull initially, over time they slowly begin to understand each other and shoulder their burdens together.
With the way the story progressed, I’m really looking forward to reading what happens next and how the duology concludes because there are so many ways it can go and I’m genuinely unable to predict what it could be. Since this is a duology though and this first book is more Red centric, I think the follow up ‘For the Throne‘ will be more focused on Neve. It’s interesting because I couldn’t get a read on her in this book, so maybe this second book will shed more of a light on her because out of the two Red was the more compelling character for me.
Until next time,