Red Hood's Revenge is the third of Jim C. Hines' princess novels. The series, partially inspired by the original, darker versions of fairy tales with a few of Hines' own personal twists, has been well received; the second book, The Mermaid's Madness, was even long-listed for the British Fantasy Award. Personally, I have also been enjoying the series. I liked the first book, The Stepsister Scheme, and loved the second, so there was no question in my mind that I would continue reading the princess novels with Red Hood's Revenge. Additionally, I like to support local authors; Hines makes it particularly easy to want to. Red Hood's Revenge also has a major focus on my favorite character in the books--Talia, also known as Sleeping Beauty. So, while I was already looking forward to reading Red Hood's Revenge, I was even more excited when I learned about that.
Roudette, Lady of the Red Hood, one of the world's most deadly assassins, has once again come to Lorindar on a mission. She prefers fairy targets but is willing to take on any assignment that doesn't interfere with her own personal vendetta. Danielle, Snow, and Talia (Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty respectively) make a formidable team, but Roudette (Little Red Riding Hood) makes a formidable foe. The women's confrontation leads them to Talia's homeland of Arathea where they discover that Roudette's presence in Lorindar is only a symptom of a much greater problem. One that will eventually threaten the entire world. There is someone, or something, powerful at work in Arathea and Talia will have to confront people and incidents from her past that she would rather forget if she wants to save those she loves.
As I mentioned previously, the further development of Talia and her backstory is an important part of Red Hood's Revenge. Up until now, Hines' princess novels have focused on Lorindar and the immediately surrounding areas. It's wonderful that he gets a chance to explore another and very different part of his world. Unlike Lorindar, where fairies have been more or less isolated from the human population, in Arathea fairykind lives side by side with humankind. At least part of Arathea's culture has been inspired by Persian mythology and legends; I think the inclusion of non-Western influenced fantasy in Red Hood's Revenge is marvelous. People aren't homogeneous, so why should fairies be? Other tales that are particularly important in Red Hood's Revenge are, of course, Little Red Riding Hood as well as The Wild Hunt. At first I felt there was a bit of a culture clash between the Hunt, which is distinctly European in origin, and Arathea, but Hines makes it work in the end.
With the princess novels, Hines has created a very likeable team of strong women. And while much of the focus of Red Hood's Revenge is on Talia, Hines doesn't forget the others. Both Snow and Danielle show development in the novel. As always, Hines also introduces interesting and engaging secondary characters. The most prominent in Red Hood's Revenge is understandably Roudette, who's story is actually revealed later in the novel than I wanted it to be, but my favorite was Faziya. From the very first time she is mentioned it is obvious how important she is to Talia by the way Talia acts and behaves. Just how important she is is slowly and naturally revealed. While The Stepsister Scheme was a little stilted (but still fun), Hines has really hit his stride with the princess books with The Mermaid's Madness and Red Hood's Revenge. I'm looking forward to reading the next and final volume in the series, The Snow Queen's Shadow. It does make me a little sad, though, that the series will be ending so soon.