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Book Review

Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

The villagers of Daggorhorn lead quiet lives except for when the full moon rises. Then they take turns leaving a sacrifice to appease the werewolf that stalks the woods. This uneasy truce was agreed to years earlier in order to keep the beast from killing the people within the town walls.

Valerie has always been different from her older sister, Lucie. Everyone in Daggorhorn loves Lucie’s grace and kindness, while most wonder at Valerie’s free spirit and peculiar ways. While her friends and Lucie all swoon over Henry, the blacksmith’s son, Valerie longs to know what lies outside the village walls.

The girls are excited when harvest time arrives because it means young men from other towns will come to work in the village. Valerie is shocked when her childhood friend Peter is among the workers. Peter had to flee Daggorhorn years earlier when his father was caught stealing and his horse reared and killed Henry’s mother. Valerie is surprised at her attraction to the brooding man she used to know.

Valerie, Lucie and their friends sneak away from their chaperone when they camp out with other villagers to celebrate the harvest. Valerie meets clandestinely with Peter. After a thrilling horseback ride through the forest, he leaves her alone while he returns the horse to its owner.

Valerie sees the full, blood-red moon and hears a terrifying growl in the woods. She flees with the other festival-goers to the village and is assured her sister is safe at a friend’s house. In the morning, Valerie meets again with Peter. He’s learned that she’s been betrothed to Henry.

Valerie is shocked. Before she and Peter can run away together, they hear the church bell toll four times, signaling someone’s death by the werewolf. Valerie follows the villagers to Lucie’s mauled body. While mourners come to grieve with Valerie and her parents, she withdraws into herself, ignoring the sympathy of her betrothed and hoping that Peter will come.

When Peter does arrive, Valerie’s mother convinces him to leave her daughter alone, knowing he will never be able to take care of Valerie like Henry, a wealthy blacksmith, can. Meanwhile Father Auguste, the local priest, sends word to a well-known cleric and werewolf hunter for help, but the men of the village set off to find the beast themselves. Before the night is out, the village reeve has brought home the body of a huge wolf, but not before it killed Henry’s father.

Father Solomon, the werewolf hunter, arrives with his guards to track the beast. He claims that the wolf killed by the Reeve is an ordinary wolf; otherwise it would have turned into its human form come daybreak. The villagers don’t want to believe him and instead plan another festival to celebrate.

During the height of the dancing, Henry and Peter fight over Valerie. She follows Peter to make sure he’s not hurt. He tries to evade her, remembering the promise he made to her mother, but when Valerie confesses her love for him, he whisks her away to the granary. They are interrupted in their tryst by men who need Peter’s help moving a keg.

Before the night is over, the werewolf scales Daggorhorn’s walls and attacks, killing several people. The wolf finds Valerie and her friend Roxanne, trapping them in an alley. Valerie is shocked to discover that she can understand the wolf’s growls. It threatens that it will kill everyone she loves if she doesn’t leave the village with it.

Before it can make good on its threats by killing her friend, they are found by Solomon and one of his bowman. The wolf escapes but promises to return for Valerie before the blood moon wanes. The next morning, Henry confesses he saw Valerie and Peter in the granary. He breaks off their engagement.

The villagers beg Solomon to take on the hunt for the beast. He agrees, but convinces them that the beast is one of them. He and his men investigate the town during the day, looking for people who practice witchcraft or who are in league with the Devil.

They take Claude, the town simpleton, in for questioning, but instead, they torture him, slowly burning him in a metal cage shaped like an elephant. Claude’s sister, Roxanne, tries to save his life by confessing Valerie’s conversation with the wolf. When Valerie admits the story is true, she is thrown into jail and used as bait to bring the wolf into town.

Henry and Peter work together to save the girl they both love. Henry forges an extra set of keys to free Valerie from the chains securing her to an altar in the town center. Solomon captures Peter and throws him into the metal elephant to be dealt with after they’ve killed the wolf. Unable to escape before the wolf or Solomon’s soldiers find them, Valerie and Henry flee toward the sanctuary of the churchyard.

They are stopped by Solomon, who captures Valerie. Once again using her as bait, he hopes to keep the werewolf in town until it can be killed or the sun rises. When an arrow fails to hit the animal, Solomon throws Valerie aside and attacks it himself. The werewolf bites off his hand and continues to stalk Valerie. She agrees to leave with the beast to save her family and friends. But the villagers won’t let her sacrifice herself for them.

One by one they step forward and pledge to defend her. The wolf escapes into the woods before sunrise. Enraged, Solomon attacks Valerie, promising that she will burn as a witch. He is stopped by the captain of the guard, who reminds the cleric that a man bitten by a werewolf under the blood moon is cursed to become one himself. The captain kills Solomon, and Valerie is taken to home to recover.

Valerie seeks out her grandmother, after a disturbing dream in which her grandmother turned into the werewolf. She meets Henry, who has joined the remaining guards to hunt for the monster. Valerie’s feelings for him have changed since he aided her escape, and she finds herself aching for what might have been between them.

He tells her that no one has seen Peter since the werewolf attacked and hints that he believes his rival to be the beast. Henry promises to do what he has to if he finds Peter. Valerie runs through the woods to her grandmother’s house but comes upon Peter instead. Her love for him overcomes her doubts as to whether he is the wolf, and she decides to leave Daggorhorn with him.

Christian Beliefs

Father Auguste says that God is the highest authority. Solomon tells Valerie that only the Devil knows why her sister was murdered. He also tells the villagers that God is stronger than the werewolf. When a villager calls on God to save them, Solomon tells her that He only saves those who earn His love through their actions and faith.

The churchyard is considered holy ground, and its power can repel the evil of the werewolf. Valerie thinks Solomon’s sword looks like the sword of God’s wrath. When she hears the werewolf’s voice, Valerie thinks it sounds like the Devil.

Other Belief Systems

Father Auguste wears a vial of holy water around his neck as protection from evil. Claude plays with a deck of homemade tarot cards. A thunderstorm is said to sound like angry gods. The villagers don’t know what to think of Valerie’s grandmother, sometimes viewing her as a goddess of the woods, other times as a witch.

They are also afraid of Claude because he looks and acts differently than they do. His ability to do simple magic tricks is evidence of his conspiracy with Satan. Valerie is convicted of being a witch because she climbs trees, runs fast, wears a red cloak and understands the werewolf. Father Solomon tells the villagers that a werewolf can only pass its curse on during the blood moon. When Valerie dances she feels like she is possessed by a powerful spirit.

Authority Roles

Valerie’s father is an alcoholic and is often seen incapacitated by his drinking. Her mother daydreams about how her life might have been different if she hadn’t married him.

Father Auguste is in awe of Father Solomon’s reputation and acquiesces to the werewolf hunter’s violent plans, even though he doesn’t agree with him. When Solomon orders Henry shot with an arrow, Father Auguste prevents the bowman from making the shot. Father Solomon kills him in retaliation.

Claude’s mother calls him cursed and leaves his sister to watch over him. Father Solomon, although proclaiming the power of God, tortures and kills people in cold blood. Throughout the book, the adults of the village are seen cowering in fear of the werewolf, making sacrifices to appease it and looking for others to take care of the problem.


God’s name is used in vain as well as a--, b--stard and d--n.

Valerie first encounters the werewolf when, as a 7-year-old, she tries to save her pet goat from being sacrificed. Before she can free the animal, the werewolf arrives. Valerie imagines it ripping her flesh with its teeth, but the wolf leaves her alone and kills the goat. She can hear it being eaten.

When the villagers find the wolf’s cave, they find human bones stacked 10 feet high in one large cavern.

Solomon describes how he once attacked a werewolf, cutting off its paw. When he arrived home the next morning, he found his wife at the kitchen table, dead, having bled to death after her hand had been cut off. Solomon keeps her shriveled hand in a box to show those who doubt his story.

The cleric tortures Claude by putting him into the iron elephant and lighting a fire under it to slowly burn the boy. There are lots of wounds, gushing blood, torn throats and dead bodies when the werewolf attacks the village. One man gets an axe embedded into his skull.

Solomon runs his sword through a bitten man’s chest, killing him so that the man won’t become a werewolf. The captain of the guard does the same to him after the cleric has been bitten.


All the girls but Valerie are shown flirting with Henry. They talk about what he might look like naked. One girl pushes her breasts up in her corset in order to attract the men working at the harvest.

Peter and this same girl dance seductively at the festival celebrating the death of the wolf. Later, Peter and Valerie share passionate kisses in the granary. He begins to take off her clothes, but they are interrupted before they go further. Claude’s sister offers to sleep with Solomon if he will let her brother go.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Drugs: Valerie steals herbs from her grandmother that induce sleep. She and her friends brew a tea to incapacitate their chaperone so they can sneak away to the boys’ camps. Later, Valerie uses the same tea to drug her mother so she can follow the men as they hunt the wolf.

Alcohol: Valerie’s father often drinks. At one point he vomits on himself. Several of the girls drink homemade bark beer at the campout. Valerie guzzles a mug of ale at the celebration of the wolf’s death.

Extra Chapter: An additional chapter of the book is offered online. It contains a violent scene in which Valerie’s father confesses to being the werewolf. He battles with Peter and tries to convince Valerie to become a werewolf with him. Peter impales him with his axe and Valerie uses Father Solomon’s severed hand, with silver tipped fingernails, to kill her father. Peter has been bitten by the wolf and so leaves Daggorhorn. Valerie promises to wait for him to return when he can control the beast within him.

Movie: The book is based on the screenplay for the movie Red Riding Hood.

To better understand how this book and movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In's movie review at http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/redridinghood.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

12 and up


Sarah Blakley-Cartwright (based on a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson)






Record Label



Poppy, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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