Into the Bloodred Woods by Martha Brockenbrough


Goodreads: Into the Bloodred Woods
Series: None
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Library
Published: November 2, 2021

Official Summary

This is Martha Brockenbrough’s feminist twisting of the Brother Grimms’ stories, Game of Thrones-style.

Once upon a time there was a kingdom and a forest that liked to eat men and a girl who would change everything, but not alone . . .


There’s no such thing as once upon a time.

In a far away land, populated by were beasts and surrounded by a powerful forest, lies a kingdom about to be sent into chaos. On his deathbed, King Tyran divides his land, leaving half to each of his two children-so they’ll rule together. However, his son, Albrecht, is not satisfied with half a kingdom. And even though his sister, Ursula, is the first born, he decides that as a girl and were bear, she is unfit to rule. So he invades her land, slaughtering her people and most of the were beasts, and claims it for himself. As King Albrecht builds his iron rule and an army of beasts to defend his reign, Ursula is gathering the survivors and making plans to take back the kingdom. Not just her half-the whole thing. Because Albrecht should have never been allowed to sit on the throne, and Ursula is going to take his crown. And if he’s not careful, he might not get to keep his head either.

Star Divider


Into the Bloodred Woods is likely to be a polarizing book. It’s original and gripping, but it’s also extremely gruesome. Readers who aren’t looking for a story with sexual assault and explicitly described bloody violence aren’t likely to rate the book high, but readers looking for something as dark as the Brothers Grimm tales the book is based are will be intrigued.

I personally, was NOT in the mood to read a book where terrible things happen to the characters left and right and the reading experience is almost more stressful than enjoyable, but I tried to look past that while I was reading and while I was reflecting on the book. I don’t WANT to read about people being tortured and bad guys getting away with things, but I have to admit that the book is technically well written. Martha Brockenbrough takes fairy tale stories readers are generally familiar with (Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.), mixes them up, and creates something new. Wild, ugly things happen, but it’s hard to look away.

One potential issue is that there is such a large cast of characters that at times it’s difficult to be invested in each one as an individual, and it takes time to see how all their stories are going to fit together. However, this also gives the book something of an authentic fairy tale vibe. Traditional stories aren’t really about characterization and introspection, but more about plot and potential lessons, so having the characters not be 100% fully fleshed out here is not necessarily an issue.

I also have questions about whether this “kingdom” is simply the size of a large town and some surrounding farms but, again, complex geography and world building isn’t really the point here. It’s fairy tale vibes and intersecting stories of woman being abused while trying to wrest the power they deserve from men.

If you like the dark, mature bent YA has been taking in recent years, this book is for you. If you’re looking for something lighter, pass.

4 stars

4 thoughts on “Into the Bloodred Woods by Martha Brockenbrough

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