The Elemental Masters series is one of my favorites. However, while I love the series, that does not necessarily mean that I love each individual book. (Bear with me a moment – I’ll get to the actual book review shortly.) My favorite books in this series are the early ones, including the book which isn’t always counted as a part of the series because it was released by a different publisher. (THE FIRE ROSE was released by Baen books, while all the rest were released by DAW Books.) My favorites in the series are THE FIRE ROSE, THE SERPENT’S SHADOW, and PHOENIX AND ASHES. While I haven’t yet read STEADFAST and I think I may have skimmed RESERVED FOR THE CAT since I don’t remember it well, I’ve read all the rest of the series. And while they were enjoyable, they just didn’t live up to my love for those early books.
Sadly, while I enjoyed BLOOD RED, it is the same as the other later books in the series. Good, but not as good. I keep hoping for another wow in this series, but it hasn’t happened yet. I still enjoy the books, and I keep buying them, but I’m glad I started with the early books. (And frankly, looking over the reviews on FROM A HIGH TOWER, I think I might be taking a break from this series.)
BLOOD RED is a retelling of Little Red Ridinghood. However, the Little Red fairy tale part is essentially over in the first chapter or two of the book. (In my favorites, the fairy tale spans the entire story.) This is fine for the worldbuilding and background, but after that, the entire story depended on a new plot. And the plot that was provided was amusing, but not fantastic.
It was a fun read, don’t get me wrong. But I saw few to no flaws in the main character, and that makes for a boring story. Rosa, by the time we really get to meet her, is already a kick-ass monster hunter, with lots of tools and weapons to help make her job easier. She has mastered her magic. Her only hang-up is with werewolves: she has a hard time believing that any werewolves can be good. So when she meets someone she’s been told is a good werewolf, she has a bit of a “what should I do?” moment, and that’s about it. Even when she runs into the Big Bad Wolf, so to speak, she’s had no problems with any of her other adversaries so far, so there’s no belief in the reader’s mind that she might be in trouble this time, either.
I still recommend this to fans of the series, or to people who are huge fans of the fairy tale. However, don’t expect an awesome read with this one. It’s a fun read, maybe a beach read. If that’s all you’re expecting, you’ll be fine.
Side note: I did read some other reviews of this book too, and some of them were glowing about how strong and kick-ass Rosa is. That is true. But it is taken to the point of being unbelievable, and means the story has essentially no real conflict. For such an accomplished author as Lackey, I find that unforgivable.