Red Hood's Revenge (Stepsister Scheme #3) by Jim C Hines

Red Hood's Revenge - Jim C. Hines
Roudette, infamous assassin, has a new target. Everyone assumes it’s Danielle and rallies to protect her – not suspecting that Talia is her main target
Nor that simple assassination is the last thing on her mind.
Caught up in a complicated, unimaginable scheme, Danielle, Talia and Snow White are transported to Arathea, Talia’s homeland. The land where she is still wanted for murder and a home she hasn’t seen for years.

And a land under threat. It’s a bittersweet homecoming and an extremely difficult and complex on – but Talia will save her people.
I love that we got more of the backstory of Talia in this book. We’d had some backstory on Snow but, ultimately, Danielle was the star of the series and it was her story, her family and her life that we focused on; inevitably this reduced the other 2 princesses to sidekicks. This was Talia’s book – and it was also a book that was heavily influenced by aspects of her character that in so many books in this genre would either not exist – or would be alluded to then quickly shuffled into a corner never to be seen again: namely that she is a Lesbian and a WOC.
We meet Talia’s first love, and it is love not lust, they have a relationship, they reconnect and Talia clearly values her as much as her friends Snow and Danielle. She isn’t secondary to them in Talia’s eyes and Talia risks all and deviates her quest in order to reconnect with her and save her. She matters to Talia and their scenes together make that clear – which makes their ending all the more frustrating.
Most of the book also takes part in Talia’s homeland – a Fantasy Middle Eastern parallel – which manages to get a considerable sense of culture and place without resorting to so many of the really tired, offensive stereotypes. There’s a lot of effort gone into making a full culture here, with a full history and populated by actual people. Not only are they not presented with many of the damaging stereotypes, but they’re free from exoticisation as well; yes Danielle and Snow are lost, but they’re presented as just that, people from a foreign land in an unfamiliar place. It helps that we see much of the story through Talia’s eyes and she has a real sense of familiarity and home coming which flies in the face of any attempt to present an alien, strange, exotic land.

We also had some wonderful development of the world – the history of the fae, the different forms of fae and human conflict that have touched every country in the world and the legends behind that. The whole faerie church and nature of religion – both as something sincerely believed and bringing healing and help to many AND a deceptive implement of social control to forward nefarious schemes was well handled. I also like that the fae in Lorindar are very different creatures from the fae in Arathea. A lot of fantasy books miss this – we will see 8 different human nations and then “the fae.” Or “the elves”. It’s nice to see mystical woo-woo creatures that are as divided and divergent as we are – after all, why wouldn’t they be? It’s a nice touch.


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