Kin: A tale of beauty and madness by Lili St. Crow
Tales of beauty and madness, bk 3. Razorbill, 2015. ISBN
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. In this retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, Ruby de Varrehas has to think about settling down and becoming responsible instead of running freely in the woods with Hunter and Thorne. When handsome Conrad is introduced into her family circle, her life is turned upside down. Then the murders begin and dark secrets emerge.
Following Nameless, a retelling of Snow White, and Wayfarer, a retelling of Cinderella, comes this haunting version of Little Red Riding Hood. Ruby has always been wild, loving to run in the woods with her good friends Hunter and Thorne. Then her grandmother, the clanmother of the Rootkin in New Haven, tells her that it is time she settled down. She had asked Conrad a boy from the Waste to visit in view of a future marriage. Ruby knows that she will have to obey her grandmother on this occasion, especially since she might end up being Collared, with her freedom severely curtailed and her punishment being made public to the kin community if she persists in her wild ways.
Ruby doesn't feel able to confide in her friends and becomes increasingly isolated as Conrad begins to invade her life. At first he seems gorgeous but she realises that something is off about him. Then the murders begin, with her dear friend Hunter being the first, and girls with red hair like her own beginning to disappear.
This is fantasy at its best - a beautifully written and very original retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. St. Crow adds to the suspense as the reader follows the incidents involving Ruby and Conrad, whose violent behaviour begins to escalate, first with irritability when she is late, but later bruises when he grabs her or hits her with his bag. The author has portrayed how young women can get sucked into a situation of domestic violence, without realising what is happening to them and making excuses for the abuser. It is not until something happens to her grandmother that Ruby is able to see what is happening and take some action. While following Ruby's trials, the reader has no problem seeing how it is important to keep the lines of communication with friends and family open.
Lili St Crow's series will enthrall readers who enjoy tales of girls who have to find their inner strength to win out against the monsters they confront.