Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce


The story of Scarlett and Rosie March, two highly-skilled sisters who have been hunting Fenris (werewolves) – who prey on teen girls – since Scarlett lost her eye years ago while defending Rosie in an attack. Scarlett lives to destroy the Fenris, and she and Rosie lure them in with red cloaks (a colour the wolves can't resist), though Rosie hunts more out of debt to her sister than drive.

But things seem to be changing. The wolves are getting stronger and harder to fight, and there has been a rash of news reports about countless teenage girls being brutally murdered in the city. Scarlett and Rosie soon discover the truth: wolves are banding together in search of a Potential Fenris – a man tainted by the pack but not yet fully changed. Desperate to find the Potential to use him as bait for a massive werewolf extermination, the sisters move to the city with Silas, a young woodsman and long time family friend who is deadly with an axe. Meanwhile, Rosie finds herself drawn to Silas and the bond they share not only drives the sisters apart, but could destroy all they've worked for.

I can only urge you not to be fooled by the gorgeous cover for Sisters Red or the apparent sweetness of the author. Sisters Red is not a saccharine cute reworking of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. No, it's dark and dangerous and scary and deals with the darker elements of that fairy tale and it deals with it competently, not dwelling on the gruesome bits, but making you very much aware of the nasties in the shadows.

Our two main characters, Scarlett and Rosie, are strong independent characters with an axe to grind with any werewolves that may stray across their paths. After a devastating attack when they were young, Scarlett is physically disfigured and has a personal stake in tracking down these creatures. She gets cranky when she doesn't go and hunt and she is fiercely protective of her younger sister, Rosie who is in actual fact, pretty damn deadly with her knives.

The relationship between the two girls form such a large and integral part of the novel that it would be silly to not mention it. Closer than average sisters, because of the violence they went through when their house was attacked by a Fenris and their grandmother slain, they become a devastating tag-team of death for any kind of werewolf.

Rosie is lovely, sweet, kind natured and less bloodthirsty than Scarlett but this makes her overcompensate because she feels she's the lesser hunter. She also carries tremendous amounts of guilt, blaming herself for Scarlett's scars. Scarlett defended them both during the very first attack and she almost died.

But, she survived thanks to the knowledge and assistance from their nearest neighbour, the woodsman. Growing up along with the two girls is Silas, the woodsman's son. Before Rosie, he was Scarlett's hunting companion. Together they fought against the weres encroaching on the area, putting them down and saving young girls...the Fenris' preferred prey.

The novel picks up when Silas comes back from taking time out. Rosie's grown up, she's beautiful and sweet and falls head over heals for Silas. Their romance is so sweetly written, I fell a little in love with them both, I have to say.

Silas is so far removed from the boys we've had in YA we've seen recently. He is a devastating killer when the need calls for it, with his axe and his strength, but the thing is, it's just something he does, it's not what he is. And that's where Silas and Scarlett have their sticking point - hunting is Scarlett's life. It's how she feels worthwhile and alive. She can't wrap her mind around Rosie and Silas not wanting to smash these creatures to smithereens.

It's written from both girl's points of view in alternating chapters and it's easy after the first two chapters to realise who is "talking" as their voices are so different, without having to read the chapter sub-headings. I loved that Mr. Pearce gave us these girls who are so tough and so honourable and delicate and scared. They are imbued with a vitality that so many YA characters lack or only hint at.

It is easy to assume that Scarlett's character is the dominating one, that her storyline is the strongest and in a way that is true but then we have the softer gentler story of Rosie with her road to self-discovery and her realisation that the world is not just killing monsters. It's a part of it, yes, but there are others things too. Silas is of course a huge influence on Rosie as her character develops and grows. But what I liked is how he was quietly a part of this - he sort of pointed her in the direction and motioned her on to go and figure things out for herself.

Even if YA urban fantasy or fairy tale retellings aren't your thing or you tell yourself you are too old for such things, I'd highly recommend Sisters Red by Ms. Jackson Pearce to get you over your own preconceptions. The writing is ridiculously easy to get into and the girls and Silas are well rounded characters. I suspect that Sisters Red is a bit of a classic in the making as it has many elements of the real and supernatural yet it's a story about family, trust, loyalty and love and how far you would go for those you love. It's big concepts, high concepts and I wasn't sure if the pay-off would be worth it, but you know? It is. It's such a great book, wonderfully jacketed to lure the unsuspecting into its sharp little claws and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Find Jackson's live journal website here. Sisters Red is now out in the UK.


CarlyB said...

Ooh I'm sold now! I have had my eye on this one for a while but your review is great, I really want to get my hands on a copy now! Thanks :) x

Angiegirl said...

These reviews I've read of this one only make me anxious to get my hands on a copy. Thanks for the more in-depth review. I can't wait!

Lauren said...

I agree with every single word of this beautifully written review. I knew I'd enjoy this one, but I didn't realise I'd fall so totally in love with it. It's perfection.