Author: Rachel Vincent
Narrator: Taylor Meskimen
Audiobook Length: 10 hours 8 minutes
For as long as sixteen-year-old Adele can remember the village of Oakvale has been surrounding by the dark woods—a forest filled with terrible monsters that light cannot penetrate. Like every person who grows up in Oakvale she has been told to steer clear of the woods unless absolutely necessary.
But unlike her neighbors in Oakvale, Adele has a very good reason for going into the woods. Adele is one of a long line of guardians, women who are able to change into wolves and who are tasked with the job of protecting their village while never letting any of the villagers know of their existence.
But when following her calling means abandoning the person she loves, the future she imagined for herself, and her values she must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her neighbors safe.
Red Wolf is, at the moment, a standalone “Red Riding Hood” retelling. I have read a few of them, so I love seeing how the author updates the source material to create their own story. Although this novel takes multiple key elements, such as, the girl with a red hood, a grandmother who lives in the woods, and wolves, the story as a whole feels original. The main character is sixteen years old Adele, who lives in the village of Oakvale. She dreams of marrying her current love, Grainger, and living next door to her best friend and her fiancé, however, her plans soon face multiple obstacles. The village is faced with many dangers as the dark woods full of werewolves and other monsters surround the village. After a wolf attack, Adele soon discovers the secret of the Red Wolves and their place as secret guardians of villages.
Adele’s family history is complex, as she must learn to embrace her new destiny as a guardian. There is the main obstacle of Adele trying to keep it a secret, as it is unclear if her love will accept her new nature. A new issue presents itself when Adele’s betrothed, Max, arrives in Oakdale and a love triangle is presented. Even though there is a love triangle, it is not a main element of the story as I, as a reader, never connect to the first love interest and the second is just there as a companion and I did not sense a romance forming. Readers may have different feelings for the romance, but it was mostly there for being a tie between Adele’s old life and her new life as a guardian rather than any actual romantic feelings for me to connect with as a reader.
As a character, Adele will be hit or miss for readers. For me, I did not see any character growth in the novel as she continued to be closed-minded and stubborn. Everything she does in in the belief that her way is the only and best way. Although there are moments where I agree with her choices, there are many where she dismisses others without any thoughts about the big picture. As she is a teenager, she fit the stereotype of an immature and “her way or the highway” character, so it was disappointing I did not sense any growth in her character. I understood the moral dilemma that is presented, but it felt incomplete. Adele has moments throughout the story where she contemplates the choices before her and the secrets that must be kept, but they felt too short in relation to the large amount of time dedicated to the romance discussion.
The world building was well done as the environment was well described. The dark forest was easy to picture in my mind and the dangers were well written. The pacing was easy to follow, although the ending was a little rushed. Right now, the novel is a standalone, but the ending does have potential for a sequel. The writing is aimed at a younger audience compared to the upper-YA/younger adult novels, which could be a reason why Adele is written a certain way and perhaps why I did not connect with her. The twists and turns in the story are unexpected in many ways as the Adele’s new role develops. The question of morals and what makes something/someone good/evil is well explored, as well as, the difficult choices people need to make. Overall, the novel had its ups and downs, but was interesting and makes me curious to try the author’s other works.