Book Review: For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1 of Wilderwood
Publisher: Orbit (June 1, 2021)
Length: 448 pages
On the edge of a magical forest known as the Wilderwood, there lies a modest kingdom called Valleyda ruled by a queen with twin daughters fated for different paths. As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Redarys is to be given to the Wolf in the Wood, for legend has it that the royal family struck this bargain long ago in return for the protection that holds the darkness of the forest at bay.
Ever since learning about her role, Red has been trying to come to terms with what that would mean—to be sacrificed to a monster in order to keep her home as well as those she loves safe, while her twin Neverah would be the one to inherit the throne. Still, even burdened with this terrible knowledge, the bond between the two girls remains unbroken, only strengthening as their twentieth birthday approaches, which is when Red must surrender herself to the Wilderwood. Heartsick over the circumstances, Neve vows she will never give up on her sister without a fight.
But then, the day finally comes, and Red enters the forest to discover much of what she has been told about the Wolf had been a lie. Eammon, as he is called, is actually the Wolf’s son, and he is not really the monster he is purported to be. When she meets him at his keep, he even gives her the option to return home. However, by this point, Red has learned too much about the magic of the woods, and how the guardians of it will eventually fall to the dark powers threatening to overwhelm it if she leaves. If that happens, not only will their realm be destroyed, but so too would Valleyda and the world beyond. Embracing her destiny, Red decides the best thing to do would be to stay and help Eammon in his efforts, which would also mean letting him teach her how to develop her own magical gifts.
So, we all know how book blurb comparisons can be notoriously inaccurate, but every once in a while, some do get it right. In the case of For the Wolf at least, I think the statement “for fans of Uprooted” is highly appropriate, since I feel there are definite similarities between the two books when it comes to certain elements of story as well as in the overall tone. Clearly, the novel also borrows its inspiration from the tale of “Little Red Riding Hood,” though I probably wouldn’t go as far as to call it a retelling. If it is, then it’s a very loose one, and in fact, if you ask me, I’d say much of the plot actually resembles the story of “Beauty and the Beast” more than anything else (again, much like Uprooted).
Anyway, one would think For the Wolf would be right up my alley, seeing as I’m a fan of fairy tale inspired stories and I also happened to love Uprooted. And well, for the most part, I did enjoy it. That said, something also felt off, and I can’t really place my finger on what. Part of it might have something to do with the development of the relationship between Red and Eammon (because in case it needed to be said, romance is a rather big focus of this one) and the effects it had on the characters individually. About 60-70% of the romance was slow-burn, which was quite lovely, but then it was like the author lost her patience or something, because after that, it was like her two characters took a bunch of stupid pills and hopped the train to crazy town. With no regard for herself of others, Red would make colossally impulsive decisions, leading to much pointless drama, back and forth bickering and misunderstandings. To be fair though, I might just be ultra-sensitive whenever stuff like this happens, because I have very little tolerance for it. But I would say there were other minor hurdles caused by these issues, including uneven pacing and lack of plot focus in places where the narrative was more concerned with tinkering around with the romance.
That said, there were a lot of things I liked as well, and one major aspect was the writing. While it may have been borderline too flowery in some places, on the whole I came to enjoy Whitten’s lush and vivid style. The lore and world building was interesting too, even if I could have done with just a tad more explanation. My heart also held a soft spot for Neve, who was given her own POV chapters. Her devotion to Red was admirable, and vice versa. I loved whenever they recalled memories of the two of them as young girls, and if anything, the bond between the sisters was the true shining jewel of this story.
In sum, if you enjoy fairy tale retellings, especially “Beauty and the Beast” retellings, you may be more primed to enjoy For the Wolf. If you were also a fan of Uprooted and are hungering for something more like it, I daresay this one also shares a lot of similarities in terms of the story and general themes. Overall, there were some plotting and pacing issues that prevented me from embracing it fully, but I’m cautiously optimistic for the series which I definitely plan on continuing.