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Review: For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

Review: For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

‘The first daughter is for the Throne.

The second daughter is for the Wolf.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.’

In the world of For the Wolf, the second daughter of the ruling family is always destined to be sacrificed to the Wolf and sent into the Wilderwood to meet what is assumed to be a horrible end. The daughters never reappear and the indication that the next should be sent is in the fact of their birth; from the moment they take their first breath, second daughters are designated as the sacrifice from which there is no escape. Red has lived with knowing that she will be sent into the wood her whole life, and while her sister cannot bear the idea of losing her, she is unflinching in the face of her fate and seemingly almost looking forward to the day that she will leave her family and step into the wood. Though her mother is cold and distant from her, perhaps owing to some sense of self-preservation and need not to become attached to her, it is not because she wishes to escape her family that she cannot be deterred from going through with it, but because she feels she is growing increasingly dangerous and poses a threat to those around her, as a magic she cannot control has long taken up residence beneath her skin.

It’s suggested that the story is Red Riding Hood retelling, and though there are aspects of the story that clearly extrapolate on the general narrative of that tale, the setting and the growing relationship between the Wolf and Red make it feel closer to a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I’ve said many times before that I adore a good retelling and For the Wolf is no exception to this, for me. In-fact, it’s one of my favourites from the past few years and I truly loved the worldbuilding and the relationships between Red and the Wolf, and Red and her sister. I’m very glad that it’s not a standalone and that there will be more story from this world.

For me, one of the best features of the narrative is the magic surrounding the Wilderwood and the Shadowlands, and how each element grows to be reflected in the sisters. Both Red and Neve are determined to protect each other, despite the distance between them and the assumptions about Red’s fate, and in refusing to give up on each other each get themselves drawn into magics and along paths that they can’t entirely control or completely understand, and while Red is supposed to have been the sacrifice, it truly feels as if Neve is the one who becomes it. There is a hopefulness to Red’s side of the narrative, despite the constant threats to her life and her worries about who or what she is, and a feeling that she is building a family and a future, however short that future may be, whereas watching Neve make the decisions she does and be manipulated by others builds a sense of increasing despair to reflect her own feelings about her sister and her own position. It isn’t that Neve does ‘bad’ things; it’s that her world view has narrowed for what she perceives to be good reasons and she can’t find her way from the path she’s started down.

I loved the developing relationship between Red and Eammon (otherwise known as The Wolf) and I did enjoy the tropes involved, such as the ‘only one bed’ scenario and the marriage of necessity. By the time Red meets him, both she and the reader are perhaps expecting a monster both inside and out, and while Eammon is undeniably a monster in terms of power and physicality, this is where the comparison ends. He is simply a man with a burden, trying to do the best he can and endeavouring not to get girls like Red caught up in the fate forced upon him and them. He isn’t awful or unkind, and I think seeing this helps Red to realisations about her own power and what she has been afraid of for so long. There’s a lot to unpack in the stories, history and legends of Red’s world regarding perceptions of good and evil, and I don’t want to go into any further detail for fear of big spoilers, but this examination was another of the things about the book that I most enjoyed.

For the Wolf is out on June 1st and I highly recommend picking up a copy! It will be followed by For the Throne, expected (at present) in July 2022. Thank you to Orbit Books for sending me a proof copy for review!