Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit for the ARC of this book.
"The First Daughter is for the Throne. The Second Daughter is for the Wolf."
For the Wolf is a fantastic read. From the characters, to the plot, to the worldbuilding, it had me riveted from the opening pages to the last pages. It follows the story of twin sisters, Neve and Red. From the beginning of their lives, they knew their place in the world. Born to the Queen, Neve knows she is destined to rule after her mother's passing. Red knows she is destined for the Wilderwood as a sacrifice to the Wolf, to entreat him to release the Five Kings - this world's gods - back into the world. They have been imprisoned for many centuries. So down through the ages, the Second Daughters born have all been sent to the Wilderwood when they are marked, usually as they pass into adulthood.
From the outset, it's clear that each sister will do their duty. Once Red's mark appears, she faces her fate with courage. Neve is determined to try to save her, but Red will do what needs to be done. Their country of Valleyda serves as the religious center of the world, where priestesses worship and wait for the Second Daughter to be born. Valleyda is the only country to border the Wilderwoood, and they wait, hoping that one day the Wolf will find the sacrifice sufficient. As the story unfolds, it comes to the reader's attention that the Wolf is certainly not what the legends say.
The magic in this book is quite well done. It centers around the Wilderwood being a sentient thing, and it's magic can be used by those who touch it's borders. There are sentinel trees that serve as a sort of stopper, to keep the Shadowlands from seeping into the world of man. But the sentinel trees are rotting, and the Wolf, using the magic of the Wilderwood, tries as much as he can to stop the rot. Yes, the Wolf is a man. Eammon, to be exact. Eammon spills his blood into the forest, but the rot is spreading faster than he can bleed. The legends about him are only partially true. He's a great character - sacrificing himself to keep others safe, while trying to maintain as much humanity as possible. But the Wilderwood is slowly becoming a part of him.
Enter Red. She can use the Wilderwood magic, but in a different way than Eammon. Together, they try to fight the monsters that come from the full rot of sentinel trees. Their relationship is complicated, at first. Eammon keeps her at a distance, determined to not grow too close to her, for he knows that the Second Daughters don't last long before they are consumed by the forest. But as time goes on, their relationship grows closer. How could it not?
On the other side of the forest, Neve tries desperately to save Red. She enlists the help of a priestess, Kiri, who is more than what she seems. She wraps Neve up into her plans, and the book takes a decidedly dark turn with Neve's story.
I don't want to give too much away, but trust me, when it all comes together, it is entirely satisfying. One complaint I had was the pacing of the the book. It got a bit bogged down in the middle chapters - a lot of character development happens, especially with Eammon and Red - but Neve's chapters were a bit too slow for my tastes. It's necessary, to some extent, but I would have liked to see Neve hold up a bit more and not get so roped in to Kiri's plots. She becomes so hyper focused on saving Red that she misses a lot of telltale signs that Kiri has certain nefarious ideas.
For the Wolf has hints here and there of being a Red Riding Hood retelling, mixed with Beauty and the Beast. As far as fairytales go, this blows most retellings that I've read out of the water. This will be an author I will certainly keep track of, and I will be reading the follow-up as soon as it's available.
4/5 stars. Fans of retellings, romance, intricate magic with a lot of darkness, and character driven books are sure to like this one. It's now available.