It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.
There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.
Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods….
There was a point last year that I felt every book I picked up was a fairytale retelling and to be honest, I had to a degree had my fill. I was wary about picking up another. But I’m so glad I took the chance on this one as the contemporary dystopian setting really set it apart from the usual high fantasy based tales. From the very first page I knew I was in for something completely different, it felt gritty and survivalist and dark.
Whilst we meet Red part way through her journey to Grandma’s, the chapters flip between what’s happening now and what came before, this was a great narrative choice as the start really packs a punch and I think to have it written in a start to finish way would have lost so much of the impact and led to a very “by numbers” story. We are faced instantly with Red’s paranoia, things that live in the shadows have never had such blurred lines as it’s everyone for themselves. I really enjoyed how closed off Red was and how that translated on the page – too often in dystopian stories do the characters not develop as a result of their surroundings, Red is a 100% a product of her surroundings travelling through the woods guerilla style, this is no place to be vulnerable and Red kicks established tropes out of the water, proving that really there is much to be gained from a diet of apocalypse movies and books. it actually the first book I have read in a long time that actually features representation of a disability – Red owns this completely, dispelling myths and showing total capability and utter fortitude with everything that crosses her path.
I loved the crossover between human kindness and human atrocity and both are given time across the spectrum, you never know who can be trusted and that sometimes even the most bizarre of alliances can be forged. The Crisis itself has lead to an almost walking dead scenario with plenty of nods to Red’s diet of dystopia, Henry is certainly masterful at conveying both impending and slow burning dread. Despite the heavy themes though, the book is an easy read, thanks in no small part to how compelling it is. The the writing style flows easily with short snappy chapters that drive the story forward, I was hooked!
Sadly though, I felt the wrap up was pretty unsatisfactory, It’s the first book of Christina Henry’s that I have read and I don’t know if this is typical of her writing style – I can’t say much more about it but it felt like i had fallen asleep halfway through a movie and then woke with a start at the end credits. One thing for sure though, I am really wanting to go back and read some of Henry’s earlier retellings as her writing style drew me in completely and her covers are amazing, simple but impactful.