The review is brought to you as part of the Virtual Book Tour for Red, hosted by YA Bound Book Tours.

In case you haven’t heard of her, Alyxandra Harvey is a popular indie writer with over twenty fantasy novels to her name. For today’s review, I am going to be looking at her latest book – Red – a stand-alone fantasy story which stars a teenage girl who has the power to create fire. The novel was released on 10th March and currently available to buy on Amazon.

Kia Alcott hides a terrible secret. She can start fires with her mind, sometimes without even meaning to, and she knows that if anyone finds out about it her life will be over. Following an accident at school, she finds herself branded as an arsonist and expelled. Her father struggles to cope with her behaviour and sends her away to live in the country with her Grandma Abby.

Abby is the housekeeper of the vast Blackwood estate and Kia immediately feels out of place. There are so many rules for her to remember and, in her brief meetings with the Blackwood family, she realises that they are hiding dark secrets. The woods around the house are reported to be filled with dangerous animals and the son of the family, Ethan, has serious personality problems – flipping between charming and unapproachable with little warning.

After an accident in the woods leaves a teenager seriously injured, Kia gradually begins to see the truth. The dangers in the woods are not animals but monsters and one in particular seems to bear a grudge against her. It is only by working together with Ethan that she can identify and defeat the creature before she becomes the hunted one…

Red Banner

I have to admit that I was primarily attracted to this book by its gorgeous cover but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a far more complex story than I had imagined from the blurb. The plot was very original and engrossing. I really did love the idea of a game reserve full of mythological beasts as it allowed for a lot of creative imaginings of fantasy creatures. There are all sorts of different monsters in this story, ranging from familiar creatures such as hippogriffs and werewolves to more unusual cryptids like phooka. The variety of the bestiary was one of the most interesting aspects of the novel for me because whenever the characters went into the woods you never quite knew what to expect.

The pacing also picked up dramatically after a slow start. This was not a novel that immediately gripped me as some of the early chapters were quite confusing. As the early chapters are largely told from Kia’s perspective and virtually everyone in the story is hiding something from her, this part of the novel felt difficult to get through. I felt very confused as to what was going on (and why virtually all of the teenage characters seemed to hate Kia on sight) but it was a novel worth sticking with.

As the novel started giving us more chapters from Ethan’s perspective, the bigger picture began to become apparent. While Kia’s early chapters were a little repetitive, largely focusing on how much she hated her powers and being forced to move home, Ethan’s were filled with intrigue. An early “Ethan” chapter shows him undertaking a strange ritual, filled with talk of champions and cups of blood. This captured my intention and made me immediately want to know more about what was going on. From this point onward, the flow of the story was a lot faster.

The plot hinges on a straightforward mystery. A large and powerful creature has appeared in the bestiary and killed or maimed at least three people but no one knows what it is or how it got there. Personally, I thought that this mystery was largely handled very well. For me, the most frustrating mistake that a mystery story can make is to make its characters seem stupid. We’ve all read stories where the solution is so obvious that we can’t believe that the protagonists can’t figure it out. Red fortunately did not have this problem but I did feel that parts of the mystery were mad far too obvious to the reader. I’m trying to be vague here to avoid spoilers but the dual narrative did not really do a lot to help build intrigue in this story. There are hints towards the nature of the creature very early on in Ethan’s chapters and I felt that it made it a little too easy to guess the twist of the story.

I also felt that the story was a little too vague in some of its world building. While some aspects of the world were explained, it still only felt as though the surface had been vaguely scratched. The sinister Cabal is mentioned throughout the story in fearful tones but they never appear and we never really find out what they are. The novel’s final chapter is also very weak, wrapping up everything too neatly – the antagonist gets is comeuppance very suddenly and the author just hastily sums up how everything came up roses for the remaining characters. This was the biggest disappointment of the story for me. I assume that this is a stand-alone story as I can find nothing to suggest that it’s part of a series and in light of this it just seemed particularly weak to end the story so abruptly.

However, my gripes in the plotting aside, I did really like the characterisation in the novel. Both Kia and Ethan were really strong characters and received a lot of growth in the story. It was really nice to see Kia gradually gaining confidence as she found people who didn’t fear her because of her powers and Ethan finding love again following the tragic death of his previous girlfriend. While I did initially think that there were too many secondary characters (all of whom are introduced in the first couple of chapters), by the end of the story it became clear that these did have personalities and motivations of their own and I got very attached to Abby and Sloane in particular.

The only character that was a real disappointment to me was Ethan’s father – Holden Blackwood. Although he was the main human antagonist of the story, his motivation seemed very weak. Part of this, I think, was due to the fact that the Cabal always felt like an empty threat but it was just really hard to grasp what made him think that sending teenagers to their likely deaths was a good idea. He also did not appear much within the story, which again added to the fact that he just did not seem to be a very intimidating villain.

So, to summarise: Red has a slow start but builds to a very exciting and fast paced story with a pair of very strong and capable protagonists. My only real issues with it were a couple of weak plot points and a slightly dull human antagonist. However, I wouldn’t let these things put you off. Red was a really enjoyable little novel and its certainly worth your time.

Red can be purchased as an eBook on

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