Review: “Sisters Red” by Jackson Pearce

For the love of books

Most of the literary world is familiar with the fairy tale entitled Little Red Riding Hood.  Several authors have tried to re-imagine the tale, like Debbie Viguié with her novel Scarlet Moon.  Vivian Vande Velde is another who demonstrated how flawed (both in content and character development) and illogical this particular classic is by her attempts to retell it with common sense in her anthology, Cloaked in Red.  However, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce can be correctly introduced as a modern take on Little Red Riding Hood.  No longer an immature and (unsuitably) gory story for children, the gore and brutality are transferred to Pearce’s young adult novel and emphasized by the transformation of the “bad wolf” into collective packs of many werewolves, also known as “Fenris.”

The author immediately stamps out any chance of possible references to the popular Twilight series’ “good werewolves” in her placement of contemporary horror characters in realistic settings within Georgia.  Werewolves are simply evil—they are soul-less and heart-less monsters without any compassion or human feelings, attracted only to the color red and young girls whom they devour mercilessly.  As can be assumed, only male werewolves exist in the deceptive forms of handsome and charming men.  Unlike popular legends, Pearce’s werewolves, or Fenris, are not restrained by the phases of the moon or nighttime; cruel murder is a common recurrence in the modern world and the murderers are usually not pursued effectively by any law or known system of justice.  Few people are even aware of the Fenris’ frequent involvement in crime, and if they do happen to witness it, they convince themselves not to believe in it.  Who better to fight male werewolves than two females?

Scarlett and Rosie March are sisters who have taken upon themselves the responsibility of protecting the common masses and utilizing their knowledge of the Fenris for one purpose—to destroy them.  They are hunters, saving the ignorant from death without any scruples. Scarlett is skilled with an ax, while Rosie is deadly accurate with knives.  Together, they have survived an early werewolf attack which resulted not only in the murder of their grandmother but also in Scarlett’s permanent facial injuries.  Both girls are alone in the fulfillment of their mission and their fidelity to the hunt of werewolves, except for the help of their good friend Silas Reynolds.  When increasing numbers of Fenris keep returning to the Marchs’ hometown of Ellison, the three friends realize that this occurrence must be with a set purpose in mind, all circling around a search for a missing person.  Aside from their resolve to solve this mystery, Scarlett, Rosie, and Silas also must conquer their growing differences, inward rebellion, and a newfound romance to remain united and try to defeat the world’s common enemy.

Pearce’s horror story does not refrain from describing the atrocities the antagonists commit.  In fact, one of the author’s trademark features in Sisters Red is how she communicates her characters’ individual mentalities through a two-sided account of the storyline, interchanging between the voices of Scarlett and Rosie.  Although only eighteen, Scarlett’s name is appropriate in every way; scarred physically by her early “meeting” with the Fenris, Scarlett has completely devoted herself since then to the hunt and to Rosie.  She feels like an outcast from modern society not only because of her physical appearance but also due to her acceptance of the werewolves’ existence.  She lives only for the hunt and expects Rosie to do the same.

However, Rosie is like most sixteen year-old girls.  She wonders what her life would be like if she were as ignorant as everyone else about the true nature of the Fenris; Scarlett’s love and her sacrifices for her are one of the reasons why Rosie feels prevented from reaching out and experiencing more of the world.  Her desires are instigated by Silas, with whom she later falls in love.  Silas is himself torn between his feelings for Rosie and his friendship with Scarlett.  He does not want to defy Scarlett in any way, but he is unsure of being only a hunter during his life without any other dreams or interests.  He, like Rosie, wants more out of life than just eliminating Fenris.

The author makes each of the characters alive with very vivid and visual representations of horror and fantasy that are a part of her reality.  She never fully explains the origins of the werewolves or their rules for transformation, leaving that puzzle for the reader to ponder.  Philosophy has its own purpose in Pearce’s narrative, with Platonism exquisitely defining the separation of consciousness and knowledge from blind and willing ignorance of the truth.  With the help of Plato, Pearce concisely points out how narrow-minded most people are.  Her main characters are strong and self-reliant women, but in spite of this, they still are humans with weaknesses.

Amid mild profanity and sensuality, Pearce proves her novel is comprised of more than the violent action she exhibited through her characters.  She stresses that Sisters Red is about the loyal bond between two sisters and the way their combined path must ultimately divide, with each leading individual lives.  Little Red Riding Hood has never been more modern or graphic; every little detail from the original is re-introduced in surprising and shocking ways, e.g. the motive for the use of red cloaks.  The hunt the main characters belong to is tangible through Pearce’s writing style, especially the riveting fights between them and the werewolves.  Sisters Red is fierce, daring, and very addictive—a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood that truly deserves its important overlay of the color red and its connotations.

Original review: Part 1: ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is modernized with werewolves and huntersPart 2: ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is modernized with werewolves and huntersPart 3: ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is modernized with werewolves and hunters, Examiner.com

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