The Redwood Rebel by Lorna George, published in 2015, is the first in the Redwood War trilogy. It follows the story of Naomi, a young soldier from the land of Ffion who, after being imprisoned for four years, makes a deal for her freedom in the hopes of eventually freeing her country from the tyrannical princess leading it to its own destruction. However, it’s not long before her plan goes terribly awry and she ends up not only fighting for her life but doing so in a difficult and unexpected situation (no spoilers!).
I first came across Lorna George on tumblr, where she was promoting her book before it was even published. I heard it was a book with dragons and strong female characters, so needless to say, I was very excited to read it when I finally got my hands on a copy at Christmas.
I’d like to say that I wasn’t disappointed, but I’d also like to be honest. I really wanted to fall head over heels in love with this book. I wanted it to be my new favourite – after all, it has dragons and strong female characters; what more could one possibly want from a book? Especially when the protagonist is possibly one of the strongest female characters I’ve come across? Naomi is not only an ex-soldier but also extremely well educated and written very realistically. She’s stubborn and knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to voice her opinion. And she’s not the only well-developed character, thank goodness. Our other protagonist is just as stubborn and flawed as she is (no Mary Sues here, thank you very much!).
The thing I think I loved best about this book was its worldbuilding. Naomi spends a lot of time with a group from another of the two continents in Ilios, the world where The Redwood Rebel is set (I won’t say which so I don’t spoil it for anyone), and there are a lot of cultural differences. There is a huge divide between the views and mindsets of one nation and those of the other, and that’s something I’m not I’ve seen before. It made for a very developed world, not to mention plenty of conflict as characters from different backgrounds argue over the right way to do things. It also led to numerous discussions on consent which of course was fabulous.
So, then, you may ask: how can you possibly be disappointed with this book in the slightest?
Sure, the characters were great, but that doesn’t mean I connected with them that well. There were a lot of long internal monologues which described what our characters were feeling and thinking and pretty much every reason behind those thoughts and feelings. Counter-intuitively, I felt that this not only slowed down the plot but also distanced me from the characters. I felt I never got chance to get to know them, because I was just told about them instead. I’d heard Naomi mentioned so many times, I was really looking forward to meeting her, so I was disappointed that it didn’t really feel like I’d met her – rather, it felt more like I was hearing about her from a friend.
But having said that, I have no doubt that The Redwood War series will only get better from here. I still definitely recommend reading The Redwood Rebel especially if you’re looking to read something with dragons in, or a progressive fantasy. I can’t wait to read the next installment!