As a Second Daughter, Red’s sole purpose in life is to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hopes that he will return the kingdom’s captured gods. Red enters the Wilderwood ready to die, but instead finds refuge in a crumbling castle with the Wolf himself who is actually a man named Eammon with magical powers imbued by the Wilderwood. The forest is getting out of his control, though, and without Red’s own power, the monsters that the gods have become will overtake the world. Weaving elements from “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Beauty & the Beast,” and “Snow White,” this is a lyrical, atmospheric epic fantasy brimming with dark magic and shadowy figures.
Knowing from birth that she was going to be sacrificed at the age of 20, Red grew up under a neglectful mother with a lot of resentment. But, she has a strong relationship with her sister. The two of them attempted to destroy the Wilderwood when they were younger, a night which turned deadly and brought Red a dangerous power that she cannot control. Although Red is resigned to her fate and enters the Wilderwood, Neve never stops fighting to free her. But, in her quest to free Red, Neve is drawn into a shadowy cult led by a woman with suspect motives. I enjoyed the sister’s relationship and thought Neve’s involvement with the cult added a much-needed layer of suspense to the story.
The magic in this book is incredibly dark and fascinating. Both Eammon and Red are connected to the Wilderwood and have magic that helps them to control the trees, but what the Wood really wants is blood. Eammon tries to protect Red by not allowing her to bleed in the Wilderwood, but ultimately Red must decide whether or not she wants to embrace her magic to keep the Shadowlands in check.
The world-building in this book is fantastic. It’s an intricately plotted novel, so there were a few times that I thought the book was a little slow. But, I thought the book balanced plot with action pretty well overall. The book is haunting, suspenseful, and wonderfully well written. I took this one to the beach with me, and though the setting could not have been more different, it was a super fast-paced read that I thought was perfect for vacation. I think it’d be a great choice for fans of Naomi Novik.
If you’ve read For the Wolf, tell me what you thought!
Content Warning (from author): self-harm for magic use, parental neglect/emotional abuse, emetophobia, anxiety/panic attacks, parental death, gore, mild audio/visual hallucinations, religious abuse