The First Daughter is for the throne.– For The Wolf, by Hannah Whitten
The Second Daughter is for the Wolf.
And the Wolves are for the Wilderwood.
Synopsis: Red (Redarys) is the second daughter, Red’s fate is sealed, Red is for the Wolf.
When Red is sent to the Wolf, bound by the promise made years ago, she is resigned to her fate. But the Wilderwood and the Wolf are not as the stories say and Red must make a decision.
CW/TW: self-harm for magic use (cutting)/parental neglect/emotional abuse/mentions of physical symptoms that might be triggering to those with emetophobia/anxiety/panic attacks/parental death/gore/mild audio/visual hallucinations/religious abuse/medium-heat romance (non-explicit) – (As listed on the author’s website https://hannahfwhitten.com/2020/09/02/for-the-wolf-content-warnings/)
For The Wolf, by Hannah Whitten is a dark fairytale fantasy that comes across as a delightfully original infusion of Red Riding Hood meets Beauty and the Beast.
The Writing/Narrative. Whitten’s writing is beautiful. The prose is rich and vivid, reminiscent of traditional fairytales, and is truly captivating. The prose is perfect for people who love to get lost into the settings, with the rich descriptions building imaginative and detailed settings that come to life. From the beautiful imagery to the horrifying, Whitten certainly nails both – particularly with the forest where the inherent beauty of nature is shown as well as the terrifying dark and monstrous nature of these sentient trees. Beautiful and monstrous goes hand in hand throughout the whole book and both are captured perfectly in the descriptions of the settings and the characters.
The prose is well paced overall, with the rich descriptions balancing any slower parts by keeping you absorbed in this vivid world. The pace is maintained through the use of dual narratives, with Red’s being the primary perspective and Neve (Red’s sister) being the secondary. Though we don’t get as much of Neve (I would have liked a little more) as Red, her chapters allowed for a nice change of pace and served to give us insight into more aspects of the world and the magic available. I enjoyed the multiple narrative take and found it worked well to particularly explore the sisterly bond between the two characters.
The Plot/Worldbuilding. For The Wolf definitely has a dark fairytale like plot with inspirations from Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast. however it is done with a unique and original touch that gives this book a fresh feel while still maintaining the fairytale atmosphere.
The plot focuses on Red, the second daughter, who is a sacrifice for the Wolf. Red is to be sent to him, in the Wilderwood, and Red has accepted her fate due to her own fear of herself – she believes she is a threat to her sister. However, upon Red’s arrival she soon realises the stories about the Wolf and the Wilderwood aren’t 100% true. I really loved the plot points that focused around the Wilderwood. Everything about the Wilderwood was perfect, from the sentient trees, the bonds and bargains, to the darker truth of the Wilderwood’s purpose.
The world in this book is strongly built with extensive mythology and stories being told to us in natural ways, as well as learning more through Red’s own experiences. Though we do get hints of the politics and information regarding how the royalty works, and its deep connection with the religion that puts the Old Gods/Kings at the center, I do wish we had gotten a little bit more – though this is partly due to Neve having less chapters than Red and the Wilderwood being the core focus of the story. However, we do get a lot about the religion itself, the magic and the Wilderwood – which I loved! I adored how we learn the stories and slowly see them unravel into the truth beneath them, I adored the Wilderwood and the magic surrounding it, and I thought all of it was well developed and built an incredible world and magical system.
The magic itself was incredibly interesting, from the sentient trees, to Red and the Wolf’s connection to the forest, to the darker aspects of magic that slowly came about. There was a duality between the magic’s used that came across beautifully, one that played on desire vs selflessness, power vs protection – which was delightful. The Wilderwood magic was incredible, violent but by the end beautiful, it was an intricate system that was fascinating. The darker magic was also interesting, I look forward to seeing more of it, and the monsters were also a wonderful aspect too. Moreover, Red and Wolf’s connections with the Wilderwood were well explored and I loved learning more about it and how it centered choice by the end.
While I can’t say much on the plot itself (because spoilers!) I did enjoy it, I liked the idea of the daughters being for the throne and the wolf and how Red’s sacrifice lead to more interesting revelations that grew into a plot filled with trickery. I also enjoyed Neve’s part of the plot focusing on saving Red and how it entwined with Red’s story and the truth about the Wilderwood. The fairytale nature did mean some elements were a little predictable but the story had enough twists and turns that this wasn’t a problem.
Overall, the plot was strong, imaginative and enjoyable. While I would have liked a little more on Neve’s side, as a whole this story was an excellent dark fairytale with gorgeous magic.
The Characters. The book has a decent cast of characters that are all individual with strong voices. Though the main focus is on Red, the Wolf, and Neve who are the three most developed in the book. I liked all the side characters who added a lot to the story, though I do feel they could have had a little more development, but overall they were all interesting, likable and unique.
Red. The second daughter, destined for the Wolf. So I have seen a few reviews that all Red an annoying character, but it appears I’m in the minority here! I actually liked Red’s character by the end of the book. My very first impression of her was one of irritation, but the woman was about to be sacrificed so I understood. However, I liked her more as the book went on – is she stubborn, selfish and arrogant at times? Yes. and she does make some less than intelligent decisions – however, I actually enjoyed seeing that kind of character in the fairytale setting. Red is a very human character, flawed and imperfect, but by the end her decisions are ones to protect those she loves – her personality is quite realistic (I do think people could have been more straight with her though, less accommodating). However, her flawed personality made her easy to connect with.
I loved the sisterly bond between Red and Neve. The two clearly are close, despite the promise of sacrifice, and even separated the two think of each other and how to protect the other. I particularly liked the two didn’t harbor a hatred between them, which would have been easy as Red could have hated that she was the second daughter. I enjoyed that the author went down the route of a strong bond instead. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this progresses over book 2 because the sisters truly have a close bond and put each other first.
I also enjoyed the relationship between Red and the Wolf (though I would have liked a bit more romantic development, it was quite close to immediate love which I’m not a fan of). However, overall I liked the relationship between the two, particular the heavy focus on choice and consent – this was at the center of their relationship and I loved that. I also liked how there was a focus on two equals as individuals, but also how Wolf protects Red but Red also protects him and shows him he is not alone. The relationship is a two way thing and the two are balanced.
The Wolf. So I’m not going to tell you the wolf’s real name but it means Protector and I honestly hope that was intentional because he is the Warden, hehe. Anyway, I loved the Wolf – he is definitely your brooding, mysterious character, and I admit I’m a sucker for those. Wolf is withdrawn and mysterious but in reality he is incredibly soft and kind, wishing only to protect others from the Wilderwood. He is gentle and awkward but he is also a flawed character with a detrimental need to be isolated and protect others alone. His flaws make him realistic and human, like Red, despite his less than human character – but his flaws are understandable so he is also easy to connect with.
Neve. The first daughter, for the throne. I liked Neve’s character, the older sister wanting to protect the younger. Neve is a gentle character, who dearly loves Red and is incredibly loyal to her. While her love for her sister remains steadfast over the course of the book, Neve develops a lot and becomes more determined and powerful. I liked Neve’s character, her story was interesting from start to finish and I look forward to seeing more.I particularly liked that Neve’s determination comes from love and loyalty, not a hunger for the throne and power – which was refreshing and interesting to watch unfold.
Overall. For The Wolf, by Hannah Whitten is a beautiful dark fantasy with a classic fairytale feel. The prose is gorgeous, the magic intriguing and the plot compelling. From the sisterly bond, to the sentient trees this book has a truly magical world and a twisty plot. This book is perfect for readers who love rich and detailed prose.
*Thank you to #netgalley #orbitbooks for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!*