When I first picked up this book a couple of years ago, I was so excited about it. The summary sounded great, and while I wasn’t familiar with the series, I thought the premise was one where you could read the books out of order.
Oh boy, was I wrong.
Written by Jim C. Hines and the third in his Princess series, Red Hood’s Revenge is set up to be about the elite assassin, known as the Lady of the Red Hood, who appears to be after Talia, known in the tales as Sleeping Beauty though she has taken to hiding in the kingdom of Princess Danielle, also known as Cinderella. To complete out the trio is Snow White herself, and the premise of the story (or so the summary would lead you to believe) is that it is going to be a game of cat-and-mouse between these two sides.
Yeaaaah, not so much. Somehow, we end up dealing with Talia’s back story. Which is great, don’t get me wrong. But suddenly, Red Riding Hood became a footnote in the novel that is titled after her. The first third (if I want to be generous) actually deals with Red. And then it’s back to Talia’s homeland and her straightening out her history. I wanted to read it, I just felt like it got tangled up in the wrong book, and I was given a false promise.
From a premise stand point, I was able to read the book without needing the others. It stood on it’s own well in that regard. The world was full of detail and it wasn’t just thrown at us, we got a chance to actually understand it in action. There were a couple of times where it fell apart and I got confused about what had happened where, but that easily could be blamed on how quickly I read and if it was just a quick phrase somewhere that tied it all together, I easily would have missed it. The characters were well-developed, and I felt like he played with the fairy tales without completely disrespecting them.
But this plot he used for the last two thirds of the book was problematic, to put it mildly. We were given so much information about this place that wasn’t familiar, it was sometimes hard to keep straight over who were the bad guys and who were the allies. And then there was the natural conclusion to that plot…and then there was what Hines did. The natural conclusion (for me and the group of people I discussed it with) was that Talia would stay in her kingdom to get it straightened out. But that would make it harder for Hines to send these three off on adventures anymore, so he spent forever spinning his wheels trying to find a way to resolve his plot and keep his trio together.
The end result is clunky, to put it mildly. I was happy we got to see Talia’s twin sons, but pulling at my emotions wasn’t enough to get me over my poor brain screaming, “This makes no sense!” I also felt like the fae-magic business going on in that kingdom was poorly explained and was just his excuse to keep the story moving. I think he hit the wall of, “Talia can’t become queen, then what will I do for future stories?!” and couldn’t think his way around it. There were other options but I know as a writer you sometimes get so tangled up in the problem that you can’t think your way out of it.
Overall, the book isn’t a bad read, just be prepared for a disappointing ending. I would suggest starting with the first book, though. It’s laid out better, and the plot resolves much more evenly.