Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Something Red

Something Red by Douglas Nicholas
3/5 stars
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, 2012
Originally published 2010
317 pages
Adult Historical Paranormal

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I came into this book with high expectations. It has received a lot of praise and I enjoy historical fiction, especially when a fantastical element is added as this one teased.

However I did not find this to be the most accessible text. It is set in approximately the thirteenth century during a long cold winter and although I believe the English is somewhat modernized, I still really struggled to follow what was going on. Of course, as the book progressed, I became more comfortable with the writing style but I prefer not to have to read so far before becoming immersed in a book.

Our primary characters are young Hob who becomes a man over the course of the novel, Molly, an Irish healer who is the head of the operation, Jack, the muscle, and Molly's granddaughter and heir Nemain. They are traveling with their three wagons meeting up with other travelers, seeking solace within a monastery, an inn, and eventually a castle where everything comes to a head.

The most exciting part was definitely the part of the book that involved a battle between two creatures, a battle to the death, and the reason why this book ventures into the paranormal category. I thought that section was incredibly well-done: gripping and almost worth the excruciating wait to reach that point. I also appreciated the incorporation of the color red and all its shades into the writing. Given that red is in the title, I was on the lookout for any and all references to the color.

I think this story would have had more resonance with me if Hob and Nemain had turned out to be the young version of some mythic couple I know about. Like how young Wart is revealed to be King Arthur in The Sword in the Stone. I kept expecting some reveal that would make this story bigger and to leap off the pages. But I did not get that and thus end my relationship with this book, feeling very ambiguously toward it.

Overall: Lacking that extra something for me and mired in difficult language that kept me at a distance, this was not a win for me.

Cover: Very atmospheric and subtle (note what's peeking out of the trees below the R).


  1. Interesting. I don't really think authors need to complicate matters by trying to replicate, even with a little modernizing, the speech of the time about which they are writing!

  2. I'm not sure this book is for me, but I do like how the author incorporated the color red into the story itself, and that cover is definitely haunting. The paranormal aspect has me curious though, I'm glad it made the wait to get to that point in the story worthwhile!

  3. Love historical fiction, but I agree -- it has to be accessible. Otherwise I might as well just go read some Beowulf or The Canterbury Tales...

  4. bummr it was meh . i;ll think about it

  5. I started reading this one and only made it 1/3 of the way through. Finally something started to happen, but it wasn't enough to hold my interest. The language made me want to glaze over it instead of spending time trying to figure out what those characters were saying. Great review!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake


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