Saturday, 19 June 2010

Book Review: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce.

Product details:
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books.
Hardcover, 336 pages.
Release date: June 3rd 2010.
Target Age: Young Adult.
Rating: 2½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Summary from Goodreads:

The story of Scarlett and Rosie March, two highly-skilled sisters who have been hunting Fenris (werewolves) -- who prey on teen girls -- since Scarlett lost her eye years ago while defending Rosie in an attack. Scarlett lives to destroy the Fenris, and she and Rosie lure them in with red cloaks (a colour the wolves can't resist), though Rosie hunts more out of debt to her sister than drive. But things seem to be changing. The wolves are getting stronger and harder to fight, and there has been a rash of news reports of countless teen girls brutally murdered in the city. Scarlett and Rosie soon discover the truth: wolves are banding together in search of a Potential Fenris -- a man tainted by the pack but not yet fully changed. Desperate to find the Potential to use him as bait for a massive werewolf extermination, the sisters move to the city with Silas, a young woodsman and long time family friend who is deadly with an axe. But the clues to finding the Potential aren't adding up, and Scarlet is shocked to learn new details of Silas's family history. Meanwhile, Rosie finds herself drawn to Silas and the bond they share not only drives the sisters apart, but could destroy all they've worked for.

Sisters Red is loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood, and my take on it is that it's Little Red Riding Hood for a modern day audience who can handle a gritty storyline, a lot of bloodshed and some pretty gory violence. It's Little Red Riding Hood without a happily ever after, with battle wounds, deep scars and sisterly bonds.  It's definitely got a sinister edge that Little Red Riding Hood never had.  That said while it's got the wolves and the red capes of Little Red Riding Hood, this story extends much further than the fairytale ever did.   This is the story of Scarlett and Rosie March, the Sisters Red of the title, who have been hunting werewolves (Fenris, as they are known here) ever since they were attacked along with their grandmother as little girls.  That story didn't have a happy ending, and it has led the sisters into a life of killing and revenge upon the wolves.  Here, these wolves take the form of handsome men who prey on young girls, especially those who flirt, giggle, wear too much make-up and dress provocatively.

We first encounter Scarlett and Rosie as children where they live in a sort of fairytale land along with their grandmother Oma March.  It's before the wolves attack, lets us gain an insight into their lives as children and gives us some background information.  This fairytale setting and somewhat old fashioned lifestyle is at odds with the modern setting of the book, and is a little disconcerting, but is perhaps a deliberate ploy on the part of the author to show us innocence lost when the enemy attacks.   From here and the initial wolf attack, we are taken to present day, and a dual narrative between the two sisters that will see us through the rest of the book.  The dual narration, told in alternate chapters between Scarlett and Rosie is something that always takes me a while to get used to, and is not a writing device that I'm particularly enamoured with.  Although this technique works here for the most part, I felt that the pace of the story suffered a little because of it.

When I start on a new book, I always hope that I'll connect with the characters, but I have to say that here I couldn't really relate to the character of Scarlett at all.  Understandably, she has been hardened by her experiences, but it's to the point where all she ever thinks about is hunting.  Make no mistake - this girl lives, eats and breathes hunting.  She has no life at all outside the hunt, and no friends at all apart from her sister, and her hunting partner, Silas.  I felt as though she was completely cut off from the world around her, and that was kind of sad. Also, she is sometimes pretty dismissive of the girls she is fighting to protect.  At times I felt like Scarlett was thinking "well, these girls are just asking to be attacked - going out, wearing make-up, dressing up and having fun".  It's like she was totally removed from people her own age and devoid of any social life, so she didn't get that these girls were behaving in a perfectly normal way.  She was written in a way that made it hard to identify with her, while Rosie, on the other hand is easier to identify with.   She realises she should hunt too, but largely this is out of obligation to Scarlett.  She wants a life away from hunting, and a chance at romance with Silas.  These added aspects to her character  made her the more interesting character to read about, for me.  While it's great that these girls are strong female protagonists, their ostracisation from society is just plain unhealthy.  Also, because their lives revolved around the hunt, I found that parts of the  story dragged a little towards the middle of the book, and that there was a lot of repetition at times. 

I found this story pretty predictable too.  There is a twist, but I think it's probably going to be obvious to anyone who reads this pretty early on in the story.  That said, the obvious twist in this tale doesn't really detract from the storyline.  Despite the faults that I pointed out here, I thought this was an okay read for the most part.  I haven't read a modern retelling of a fairytale before, and I was interested to see how it was done.  However, I'm not sure that I'll be picking up Sweetly (2011), which is a companion novel to this one, and a modernization of Hansel and Gretel.  Overall, while I'm glad I tried this one out, and it did keep me entertained, I'm thinking that maybe one modern fairytale was enough for me at this point in time.  That said, if you like the sound of this, and you like your heroines strong and feisty and your battles bloody, then maybe this one is for you!


  1. ive been looking forward to this one it sounds like a good read so thanks for the honest review its always nice to see honesty in the reviews keep it up! :)

  2. Thanks for the honest review- I had some of the issues you had with this book. I was a bit disappointed b/c I think this one received a lot of hype. I was glad I tried it out as well. I won't be picking up Sweetly either. Great review!!

  3. I have been fascinated with updated fairy tales for a long time. I'm really drawn in by the cover on this one. It is really interesting and whoever designed it was very talented. I've got this one on my TBR list and will get to it at some point soon I hope. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. @Blueicegal - thanks doll. I like keeping it real with the reviews! ;-)

    @Christina - this one has received a lot of hype on the internet/blogosphere, which is mainly why I wanted to check it out even though I wasn't sure it sounded like my kinda thing at first. I mostly try not to buy into the hype, but sometimes it happens. haha! I noticed out of all my Goodreads friends you were the only one who gave the same rating as me!

    @Kay - I love the cover art too. Beautiful!

  5. Just letting you know that you won an award over at my blog =)

  6. I hadn't heard of this one. What an intriguing premise!


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