Monday, May 4, 2015

Just Another... Book Crush (#18): Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Just Another...Book Crush! is a monthly feature where I invite an author whose book I've recently reviewed and loved to write a guest post and share their three latest book crushes. It's a feature I'm starting mostly because I'm often very shy to approach authors, especially ones I admire, and also because I love reading guest posts since, more often than not, they convince me to pick up a book even when the reviewer cannot. 

Today on the blog I am thrilled to be re-welcoming Rosamund Hodge back to discuss her sophomore novel, Crimson Bound, which I actually found to be even better than her debut, Cruel Beauty, which I loved. Hodge has a talent--and the courage--to write unlikable female characters, ones who don't always make the moral of decisions. I am head-over-heels in love with her blog post today and I hope you all will be too! 
When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat. Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night? Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

Misery Loves Company: Why I Wrote Two Guilty, Self-Hating Heroines

When you have a book about to be published, you start thinking of all the reasons that people might not like it. You ponder all the points in the book where a reader might demand, "But why did you do that?" And you try to come up with a few good answers.

At least, I do. So I've been conscious for a long time that there are a lot of similarities between Rachelle, the heroine of Crimson Bound, and Nyx, the heroine of Cruel Beauty. They both struggle with guilt and self-hatred. They both think that they're unworthy of love. And they both use a lot of anger to cope with that.

Why did I write a second angry, guilty, self-hating heroine? 

Because I wasn't done yet.

I like writing about guilt and self-hatred because . . .  well, for one thing, it brings the DRAMA like little else.

But I also like writing about it because it's a way to get at some fundamental human issues. Who am I? Who should I be? How can I be loved? Those are questions that we all face, and those are the questions at stake when you're writing a character who's dealing with guilt.

And I wrote two guilty heroines because I wanted to write two different sets of answers to those  questions.

If I had to summarize Nyx's story, it might be: "You're not as bad as you think you are." Nyx hates herself because she's full of anger and resentment--at her father, for promising her to a demon, at her sister, for escaping that fate, and really at the whole world, for letting her be in such an awful position. Over the course of the novel, she learns to be kinder to the people around her--but she also learns to accept her own anger, to stop hating herself for it, and sometimes to embrace it.

That isn't Rachelle's story.

Because the reason that Rachelle hates herself? The evil, supernatural powers of the Great Forest offered her a choice: kill an innocent, or die. She killed and lived. And there were a whole bunch of mitigating circumstances--she didn't accept that choice without a fight--but at the end of the day, somebody was dead. She did it.

I wrote about Rachelle because I wanted to write a story about the question, "What if you are as bad as you think you are?"

You hear a lot about needing to "forgive yourself"--in novels, TV, and inspirational blog posts.  But when there's an example of  "forgiving yourself," usually it's all about realizing that what you did wasn't so bad.  Or that you were trying your best. Or that you really didn't harm anyone in the end. Or that at least you're different now, hooray, so let's just wave our hands and ignore what happened earlier.

And quite often, that's exactly what you need. I know that a lot of the time when I start wallowing in self-hatred, it's over something absolutely inconsequential, where I did try my best and anyway nobody will ever know the difference. Sometimes you really just need to realize that you're not as bad as you think you are.

But not always. Sometimes you really have done something awful. And I used to struggle a lot during those times, because I felt like forgiving myself would be saying that what I had done was okay. It would be denying my own principles of right and wrong, and I loved my principles far more than I loved myself, so I figured it was just time to board the guilt train.

If you had asked me, of course I would have said that forgiveness didn't mean making excuses; I would have told you that in fact, forgiveness can only exist when somebody has really done wrong. I would have sworn that anything could be forgiven.

I would have said that, and thought that, and defended that to the death. But I often had hard time believing it.

So I wrote Rachelle. At the start of Crimson Bound, she's in a similar position. She's done something wrong, and she hates herself, and she clings to that self-hatred because it is the only thing she has left. The Great Forest took away her dreams of courage and heroism; it took her family and friends; it took away her innocence and her sense of self.  As long as she hates herself for being what the Forest made her, she's still a little bit free of it.

Then I gave her one last chance to save the world from the power of the Great Forest. I gave her a few people who were willing to believe in her. And I made myself a promise: no matter what happened on her journey, she would get to keep her principles. I would never, ever make her say, "That wasn't so bad," as the price for finding peace.

I think it ended up making a pretty interesting story. 

Just Another... Book Crush! 
1. The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
2. Prairie Fire by E. K. Johnston
3. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Thanks for stopping by, Rosamund! I love, love, love this post--it exemplifies so many of the ideals I want to see in more YA heroines, which is why Rosamund Hodge is one of my favorite authors, even after just two books! What did you think?


  1. I agree. I also think this is why I tend to like her heroines. Great post!

  2. Loved this post and I love Hodges work. So beautifully dark and alluring. You can't help but love the antiheroes she creates.

  3. I also think that these type of characters are the ones that have the most to say. It's not like their self-loathing means they like talking about themselves, but there's a realization and discovery at the end of all that hate.

    Wonderful post! Thanks, Ms. Hodge and Keertana!

  4. I will say that Cruel Beauty holds a special place in my heart but I ended up loving Crimson Bound almost as much as I did Cruel Beauty.

    Rachelle is definitely one of the things that make the book for me and I love how well written her character is. I love that her self-resentment is for such a real reason. However, in spite of her horrible actions at the beginning of the novel, it's hard not to like her or to want to forgive her for them since she already beats herself up over them. I constantly wanted to hug Rachelle and tell her she was not a bad person, she had just done some horrible things but forgiveness can be hard. Nothing can excuse her actions but, given her circumstances, I think she can be forgiven.

    Loved the guest post!

    Thanks so much for sharing, Keertana!! :)

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

  5. First off, let me just say this: Crimson Bound was awesome. As in it's the book that made this author an insta-buy for me. The whimsical feeling plus the effective portrayal of a guilt-ridden heroine were fantastic.

    Second, I have to say that I personally like flawed heroines more than the perfect ones. As the author said, it's a catalyst for a lot of discernment and discussion about humanity in general; philosophical questions that are not easy to answer, that can only be answered through a big event or experience that helps defines who we are.

    Glad to see the author feeling the same way!

    Faye at The Social Potato

  6. Flawed characters are the best characters. I really loved Nyx's character so after reading this guest post, I'm feeling more and more confident that I'll love Crimson Bound just the same!

    Thanks for sharing, Keertana <33

  7. I enjoyed the darkness of Nyx's story, and since this is even darker, albeit in a slightly different way, I have a feeling I'll enjoy it even more. Positive, likeable heroines can be great, but as a reader, I really like being challenged and heroines like these two cerainly do that for me. It's nice to push my limits a little bit.

  8. It's really interesting when characters are featured struggling with the same conflicting thoughts we do on a daily basis; and I'm so glad that's put into perspective in Rachelle's character. It makes them feel more real and alive, thus giving us a stronger connection to the story.

    Thanks for sharing Rosamund and Keertana and, as always, wonderful and insightful post! ♥

  9. This is great. I was thinking about how well the subject of guilt / forgiveness was handled in Crimson Bound, so I'm glad to see this post. (I remember being really impressed by the moment where Rachelle is telling Armand what she did, and she waits for him to kind of ... make excuses for her? But instead, he agrees that she made the wrong choice - and forgives her anyway.) I also really liked (SPOILERY SPOILERS) the way her forgiveness / redemption is, um, literally connected to her initial crime - there's that great part at the end where Rachelle re-reads her aunt's last actions towards her, and is able to revise her narrative about her own crime.

    Anyway. Great, totally fascinating post - I've really loved all of Hodge's posts on Crimson Bound - they've been so wonderful and thoughtful.

    Blogger @ The Midnight Garden

  10. Wow this is such a great and insightful post Rosamund, I love everything that went into helping you create Rachelle's character. After reading this post, I'm actually kicking myself for not having picked this book up yet. Great post ladies!

  11. Thank you for sharing this post! I loved reading it. I don't think it's often that authors are willing "to go there" with their heroines, and it's very cool that Rosamund took a chance not once but twice.
    Great post, girls!

  12. Sheesh, I really need to read these books. That's awesome she's a favorite after two novels. And I love this post. It's quite intriguing and gives you a lot to think about.

  13. Thanks for the really interesting post. I really enjoyed Crimson BOund, it was a great story!

  14. Ahhhhh! I can't wait to read this Keertana! I loved Cruel Beauty so much and I'm so happy to know you liked Crimson Bound even better. I can't wait to meet Rachelle and find out the mitigating circumstances surrounding the innocent she had to kill. It gives me chills just thinking about it.

  15. Well I really think that all authors go through this "will people like my book" phase. It's just normal I guess. Anyhow I'm actually glad that she again wrote about guilty heroines. As we don't get plenty of them and they do seem more real. So I cannot wait to read Nyx's story. Great post :)

  16. I enjoyed this book and I can't wait to get my hands on the first one too, as I've heard so many great things about it too :)

  17. I think a lot of women/girls do have that self-hate and it's something that we need to work through as we grow and change. The guilt's even harder to work through! Lovely post!

  18. What an amazing thought-provoking post! Thank you, Rosamund for sharing and thank you, Keertana for having Rosamund as a guest.


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