Roudette is the Lady of the Red Hood, a legendary assassin. Only one person has ever gone up against her and lived to tell the tale: Talia, also known as Sleeping Beauty. Now Roudette has been hired to go after Talia, and the schemes she's involved in will soon force Talia to return to her homeland---and the twin sons she left behind. There, the three princesses will uncover a web of fairy and human machinations, all of which rely on Talia, as well as her mysterious fairy curse.
In Jim C. Hines's wonderful Princess Novels series, Red Hood's Revenge falls after The Stepsister Scheme and The Mermaid's Madness, and before The Snow Queen's Shadow. (I ended up reading these last two books out of order.) In RHR, we get to see Danielle (Cinderella) developing as a princess; the waxing and waning tensions among the three companions (in particular, between Snow and Talia); and the mysterious homeland Talia has only alluded to in previous books. Her tale in particular is a dark one, hardly the sanitized popular version, and she knows that to return to her home means death: she killed her husband, the prince. Yet if she wants to save her home from the schemes of the fairies, she'll have to go back.
The characterizations are, as always in Hines's tales, fantastic. Danielle is learning to be a princess rather than a servant---no easy task. Snow is facing the fact that her magic is harming her and aging her, and yet she needs it. Talia is a deadly fighter, but strength of arms is not what she'll most need when she has to face her old mentor, a former lover, and a host of enemies---as well as potential allies. Roudette seems like a straightforward enemy at first, but of course there turns out to be much more to her than meets the eye.
Talia's homeland is richly detailed, making it easy for the reader to see, taste, and smell the cities and deserts. Hines as always mixes the darkness of what comes after the supposed "happily ever after" with tidbits of humor, but the series does get darker as it goes. I can't imagine not getting sucked into the fears, adventures, and successes of the three princesses and the formidable queen they follow.
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