cover image Into the Bloodred Woods

Into the Bloodred Woods

Martha Brockenbrough. Scholastic Press, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-338-67387-6

Though Princess Ursula and Prince Albrecht are twins, they are nothing alike. Firstborn Ursula is a just, empathic werebear who can shift between girl and powerful brown bear; Albrecht is a cruel, megalomaniacal human who, like their father, King Tyran, believes that most werecreatures belong in cages, performing for pennies. Each pale-skinned 20-year-old has a right to the throne—by tradition men rule, but by law the eldest inherits—so before he dies, Tyran compromises, crowning Ursula queen of the western forest and farms, and Albrecht king of the eastern commercial district. Ursula plans to liberate her fellow weres and broker a treaty with Albrecht, but instead, Albrecht invades, driving Ursula and her remaining subjects into the woods. As Albrecht builds a mechanical army to defend his territory and facilitate were-genocide, Ursula, her dark brown–skinned werebear girlfriend, and their allies plot revenge while struggling for survival. Studded with references to familiar fairy tales, this gruesome fantasy from Brockenbrough (The Game of Love and Death) explores the revolutionary properties of honesty, equality, and self-acceptance. Though some of the characterizations feel flimsy, a rotating narrative gives the action-packed tale complexity and heft. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (Nov.)