Sisters Red’s author Jackson Pearce and I went to college together. We were in the English program at overlapping times, but I’m not sure we ever properly met. Her face is extremely familiar, but I never knew her in any real way. I remember hearing when she published her first book, but then promptly forgot all about it. I started seeing her fairy tale re-telling novels recommended in various places and decided to give my fellow UGA grad a read. After languishing on my TBR shelf for close to a year, I picked up Sisters Red last week and looked forward to the Little Red Riding Hood re-imagining. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed by the time I reached the last page.
Scarlett and Rosie are sisters, 18 and 16 years old, respectively, whose grandmother was brutally eaten by a Fenrir (werewolf) before Scarlett managed to slay the wolf and save her and Rosie’s life. They were then taken in by their neighbors, a family of woodsmen. Scarred and missing one eye due to that attack plus her continuing mission to hunt down all the Fenrirs until they are destroyed, Scarlett begins recognizing signs of a strengthening in wolf numbers and wondering what could have them all upping the ante. Together with her sister and Silas (of the woodsmen), they move to the big city, where massive amounts of Fenrirs are gathering, in order to uncover the mystery and kill as many murdering wolfies as possible.
What worked? The darkness. Yes, this book is violent, gory, and apologetically brutal. These werewolves are not sexy and in no way bear any relationship to the likes of Jacob Black. They are blood-thirsty animals looking for a tasty human snack. I loved that. Werewolves SHOULD be scary. Pearce also creates a great sisterhood mythology. Scarlett and Rosie as bad-ass Fenrir hunters was refreshing. Reminded me a lot of Sam and Dean’s brotherly bond in the television series, Supernatural. There’s just something so appealing about sibling relationships and Jackson obviously has firsthand experience in this department – kudos!
What didn’t work? Almost everything else. Sorry. The fact that these wolves only target scantily clad club-going young females – so many things wrong with this scenario. I don’t want to get into a rape culture conversation or feminist theory, but you can hardly avoid it when discussing this plot line. Does it help that the hunters are female slayers? Perhaps, but not enough. I was also disappointed in Pearce’s constant harping on how ugly Scarlett was in comparison to her younger, un-scarred sister. Scarlett’s scars were mentioned at least every other page. And as for Silas falling for Rosie – the obvious pretty girl – instead of Scarlett, that didn’t work for me either. How boring. It might be far more likely, but dammit – this is a fairly tale. Scarlett would have made the far more interesting choice.
Speaking of the romance plot, Silas is 21 and Rosis 16. Pearce doesn’t much care about this age difference and never even comments on it. And since the sisters and Silas don’t have any actual parental figures in their life, there’s no one to hold them accountable for their actions. It was weird. Why does YA always have these children (because that’s what they are) running around without any parental figures? Why is this a trope? Someone explain it to me. Can people only be interesting when they have absent parents?
Oh, and before I forget, the big twist ending was easily figured out within the first 50 pages. Also, the bit about all the wolves being wolves because they were the seventh son of a seventh son – yeah right. How many wolves could that curse possible produce? There can only be a very few humans born that meet that criteria. Not the thousands that occupy this novel. Insert dramatic eye-roll here, please.
As you can see, not a fan. I won’t be reading Pearce’s other companion novels which makes me rather sad as I had so looked forward to them in theory and wanted to support a home girl. If you’ve read any of her other books, let me know what you thought down in the comments!
Grrr…I forgot to mention something else and don’t want to take the time to properly edit it into the above review because I am LAZY! Something that bothered me – Pearce’s setting. The book takes place mostly in Atlanta which is my home and hers. She should have been able to fully realize Atlanta, but lost me so many times. Big yellow taxis? Last time I checked, that was NYC. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a yellow taxi in Atlanta. I believe ours are mostly white. The subway? Um…also NYC. We have MARTA, but it’s mostly above ground. If she hadn’t mentioned such landmarks as Piedmont Park, Atlanta would have been a complete stranger to me.