Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Book Review: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Title: Sisters Red
Author:  Jackson Pearce
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN:   0316068683
Release date:  June 7, 2010
FTC note:  My ARC of Sisters Red was provided by Little, Brown and Company for review.
Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris-- the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She's determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts fiercely alongside her. Now Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves and finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax-- but loving him means betraying her sister and has the potential to destroy all they've worked for. 

Overall rating: 9/10 flowers
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Sisters Red is a romantic, action-packed urban fantasy.  Imagine Little Red Riding Hood with Buffy the Vampire Slayer's wicked fighting skills and determination to take down as many predatory monsters as possible (in this case, Fenris, evil werewolves who prey upon women), and you will have a pretty accurate image of Scarlett March.  She was only eleven years old when she first courageously faced off against a murderous Fenris in a effort to protect her little sister Rosie. Since that time, Scarlett and Rosie have both worked hard to become formidable fighters and, along with their childhood friend Silas, have become experts at luring and slaughtering Fenris.  Sisters Red is not a bland retelling of the traditional Red Riding Hood story.  It is a modern tale about family, responsibility, love, and identity.  At the center of it all are two fiercely loyal sisters who tread a fine line between devotion and resentment while in pursuit of a deadly enemy.

What I Liked:
-     Scarlett and Rosie March are capable, resilient, and intelligent.  They are not damsels in distress who wait around to be rescued.  Instead, they choose to lure and fight the Fenris on their own terms.    
-     Silas is sweet and has a wonderful sense of humor.  He reminded me of an old-fashioned romantic hero like Theodore "Laurie" Lawrence from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, if Laurie happened to have a sexy southern charm and a fabulous physique from his expert ax-wielding skills.  ;-)  Silas is Scarlett and Rosie's devoted childhood companion, and he wouldn't hesitate to put his life on the line for either of them.  *insert swoon here*
-     The chapters alternate between Scarlett's point-of-view and Rosie's point-of-view, and the alternating perspectives help make it easy for readers to sympathize with and relate to both sisters.  While they are both fiercely devoted to one another, they have very different personalities and motivations.  Rosie's chapters keep the story lighter and more romantic while Scarlett's chapters keep the suspense and dramatic tension in focus.  The alternating perspective helps maintain a well-paced balance between romance and mystery.
-     I love modern stories inspired by traditional fairy tales and folktales, but if the interpretation isn't given its own twists and turns the story can feel unoriginal.  Sisters Red does not suffer from that at all.  The story and characters feel new and well-developed, and the Red Riding Hood references add a delicious bit of darkness and striking visual imagery (the crimson cloak, the woodsman's ax, etc).  This book would lend itself very well to a movie or a graphic novel adaptation.
-     The Fenris thrive on their victims' fear and are sinister in a lecherous, predatory way.  They make excellent villains.
-     The increasingly flirtatious friendship between Rosie and Silas evolves just slowly enough to torture readers with a lovely amount of tension.  Not only has Scarlett always been the most important person in Rosie's life, but the camaraderie and affection between Silas and Scarlett also feels genuine, which sets up a challenging and strained dynamic between the three of them as Rosie and Silas find themselves increasingly attracted to one another.
-     Obviously there are fantastical elements to this story (i.e., werewolves), but the overall feel of the world and characters remains grounded in reality.  The main characters are practical, don't instantly heal from injuries, and are not independently wealthy.  While their Fenris-hunting lifestyle sets them apart from their peers, their overall situation seems plausible and realistic for young people living on the outskirts of society.  They spend what little money they have on important supplies like gauze to wrap up their injuries.  They survive on pasta, ramen, and Chinese take-out.  And Silas drives an old, beat-up car.  Basically, their lifestyle and living arrangements feel believable.
-     I liked the recurring themes, such as the shadows and sunlight, which contribute to the fairy tale feel of this modern retelling.
-     This book gets bonus points for mentioning The Princess Bride!  *happy grin*  

What I Wished:
-     I wished a particular aspect of the story had been less predictable, but it was still enjoyable to watch everything play out and there are still other twists and surprises right up to the end.
-     One specific conflict scene seemed too conveniently paced to me, so I wished that scene had unfolded a little differently, but it didn't ruin my overall enjoyment of the book so I'd consider it minor. 
-     I wanted to know more about the woodsmen, and I hope we will learn more about them in the two companion novels Jackson Pearce has in the works.  I would also love to see a graphic novel series set in this world.  Scarlett would make a fantastic graphic novel heroine.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy modernized fairy tales, urban fantasy, or paranormal romance.  Fans of stories about strong, heroic girls, like Diana Peterfreund's Rampant or Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer should definitely pick up Sisters Red.  

Sisters Red will be released on June 7th, 2010.  You can see author Jackson Pearce discussing Sisters Red HERE.  And you can learn more about this book and Jackson Pearce's other novels on her website | blog | twitter | YouTube channel.  You can also hear her talking a little about Sisters Red HERE.  Jackson Pearce is currently working on two companion novels for Sisters Red - Sweetly (which is a modernization of Hansel and Gretel) and Fathomless (which is a modernization of The Little Mermaid).  I look forward to reading both!  


Candace said...

I've been waiting for your review since I saw you were reading this! It sounds great and I'll be excited when one day I get a copy of this in my hands!

Midnight Sapphire Books said...

You read Sisters Red that was my WoW last week!!!

Violet said...

Candace - It is excellent! Remind me to bring my ARC up with me next time we get together for a signing so you can borrow it. :)

Midnight Sapphire Books - It is definitely WoW-worthy. I really enjoyed it! :)

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