Reviewed by: Amy
Rating (out of 5): 4.5 stars
At the age of eight both Hope and Red were left as orphans, albeit in very different circumstances.
After watching her entire village used as an experiment by a biomancer—“Mystics of biology. They can take living creatures and change them”—the child who comes to be known as Bleak Hope (named after her fallen village) stows away on a merchant ship and, once discovered, is sent to the island of Galemoor where the Vinchen warriors reside.
Grandteacher Hurlo the Cunning sees something in Hope that causes him to forego the ancient rules of the Vinchen and he begins to secretly train her in their ways. Using the skills she learns from Hurlo’s teachings, as well as picking up skills from others along her journey, Hope knows that vengeance for her slain village will someday be hers for the taking.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Red whose nickname comes from the red eyes he was born with due to his mother’s addiction to Coral Spice (an addiction which would later aid in her death). After Red’s father also dies, he finds himself running on the streets of Paradise Circle. A chance encounter with infamous con-woman Sadie the Goat starts Red on a life of piracy and thieving. His name is known far and wide in New Laven, but when Red realizes his thievery only hurts those in the Circle, he set his sights on thwarting the Imperial Guard.
When Hope and Red’s paths cross, they realize their goals share common ground. The Empire has no idea what’s in store for them.
Hope & Red is one of those stories where I finish and I don’t want to start anything else, I wish the next book was out already because I just want to stay enmeshed in this world. I wasn’t really expecting all the swashbuckling piracy that’s littered throughout the story, but I loved it.
But probably best off all is the fact that the awesome action sequences don’t overshadow the heart of the story. There’s just enough room for Red’s tender-heartedness and romantic notions as there is for the violence and gore. It makes the story feel really well balanced, not skewing too far to one side or the other.
The way the story is constructed is great as well. The plot starts off shifting perspectives from Hope to Red and back again from the time they’re eight to ten years later at eighteen. It was really interesting to see these two characters from seemingly different backgrounds, grow up in different ways with different ideals, and later come together with the same goals and, really, the same convictions. Just because Red is a thief he’s not painted outright as a villain. Just as because Hope is a dedicated warrior with a code doesn’t make her supremely the good girl. They both bring out new perspectives in one another that each were lacking when they were on their own.
The only downside for me in this story was that it seemed to drag on a little towards the end. I felt as though there were a few too many confrontations before we actually got to the big showdown. But, alas, once we do get there, of course, Jon Skovron knows how to make readers beg for more. I’m eagerly anticipating the next book, and not only for the situations in which our characters are left, but for the fact that I know they’ll come out swinging.
Sexual content: Sex