It’s no secret that I’ve sung Jim C. Hines’ praises before on this site. Last year when we were lucky enough to have Jim as our author GOH at Icon, I went so far in a book group discussion to call Jim’s Goblin series an every man novel. No, I’m not going to ‘splain that (unless there’s popular demand), but it’s true. Believe the English professor, okay?
Jim took a great risk as a writer. He changed brands. About the time I learned of Jim’s existence (Fantasy Matters, 2007), Jim was done with the goblin phase of his life, and was moving into his princess series.
I’ll admit, the first book of the princess series did not excite me. It was okay, and it was limited by being a first book, which meant a great deal of time was spent in establishing the characters and the situation, and the plot seemed a bit secondary.
By the time I read the provocative reinterpretation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, the very grim Mermaid’s Madness, Jim had a solid grasp on where this series was going. Unlike Ariel and Flounder, Jim’s version echoes the grim undertones of Anderson. Well done. Golfer’s clap, Mr. Hines.
So, are you wondering what I thought about Red Hood’s Revenge? Wonder no longer. I’m going to post some of Jim’s answers to a few questions I had about the book next entry, but I wanted to write a review of the latest book in the princess series.
I might disagree with the critiques who think Red Hood’s Revenge is the best of the series. For sheer mood and similarity to the tone of the original, I would probably give that honor to Mermaid’s Madness.
BUT technically, Red Hood’s Revenge stretches the author, and it is arguably Jim’s best crafted book in the series so far.
Here’s a little cut to save your friend’s pages. The short version in case you’re working on a schedule: Read the book, especially if you like faerie tale and myth-based fantasy.
The longer version?
Red Hood’s Revenge is Jim’s most ambitious princess book. In this book, he does many things. He polishes the relationship between the three princesses, interconnecting them while at the same time building tensions between them. A good story teller can create conflicting emotions in individual characters. Jim succeeds in doing that here.
Two ways in which Jim succeeds thematically are his focus on religion and his inclusion of other cultural aspects successfully. One might argue that because Jim is a man writing successfully about women, not only is he doing a good job with desert culture, but he’s also doing a fine job representing the opposite gender authentically. As a writer who’s been trying to write about adolescent boys this past year, I know this is no easy task, writing against what’s familiar and natural.
Jim’s portrayal of religion is complex. It would be easy for Jim to paint religion as the root of evil in this book, but he doesn’t take the easy way out, as many fantasy writers do. Instead, Jim looks at liberal and conservative views of the faerie religion. Religion in the book is not stereotyped or easily classified. A thinking reader will find themselves satisfied upon reflection. I like having something to sink my intellectual teeth into.
Of course, this book is about Red Riding Hood, but in juxtaposition to how she compares to one of our main characters, Jim’s interpretation of Sleeping Beauty. The contrast between Red Hood and Talia is a contrast of could have been’s. Red Hood is alone in the world and is motivated by revenge. Talia seems this way superficially, but the relationships in her life have saved her from Red Hood’s fate. Talia’s life turns out to be an underscoring of Queen Beatrice’s belief in bringing the princesses together, although perhaps Talia hasn’t examined this idea closely until she understands Red Hood.
Is it so odd that Jim’s Sleeping Beauty comes from a desert culture? The Folklore Index suggests not, that the earliest occurrence of the Sleeping Beauty tale occurs in 1001 Nights. Giambattista Basile’s version of the story names the heroine Talia. Jim has clearly does his homework.
As readers of the series know, Talia is also interested in Snow White romantically. This move modernizes and adds a twist to the story that brings something new to the discussion, which a reinterpretation should definitely do.
While I do like Mermaid’s Madness better, I know this is a more skillful book. Jim deserves the starred review he received in Publisher’s Weekly for it. I’m on pins and needles for the next book, The Snow Queen’s Shadow. I want to see what depth Jim Hines adds again to a Hans Christian Anderson tale.
Soon: Jim answers some questions.
Keep writing, Jim. Thanks for the good books.