I personally did not like Cruel Beauty. Despite that little fact, I still decided to venture into the sequel because a) it's the same world, but different characters, b) none of the characters from the first book will make an appearance in the second book, and c) why not? Crimson Bound doesn't sound bad – it sounds more adventurous!
But then I found out later it’s a stand alone novel. So scratch that, and just leave the fact Crimson Bound just doesn't sound bad. And if I still call Crimson Bound a sequel to Cruel Beauty, then my bad.
By the end of the first chapter (not the prologue), I was sure that I would enjoy Hodge's second book much better. I think one of the main reasons why I loved Rachelle so much as a main character is because she's similar to me in the romance department: she's extremely resilient toward Erec's advances. Not only that, but Erec's arrogance is actually amusing – he's oblivious to Rachelle's constant rejections and it's hilarious how he just continues persisting and persisting and Rachelle continues to reject him.
Romance department aside, Rachelle seems very kick-butt and ambitious – at fifteen she becomes her aunt's apprentice and aspires to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. But ironically enough, with her recklessness and straying off the forest path to meet a forestborn, Rachelle finds herself having to make the choice of living or becoming a bloodbound, binding her to the forestborn and the Destroyer, the one person she hoped to destroy before darkness takes over the world.
I personally think the entire plot of the story didn't really just focus on Rachelle's goals to kill the Destroyer and saving the world – it's really just a plot behind the real plot, and it was there to make things really interesting. Throughout the book, Hodge gives quite a bit of teasers to Aunt Leonie and the situation surrounding her death. The answer was obvious on who did it, but what really happened at that particular time is the big question throughout most of the book.
Overall, Crimson Bound doesn't fall in the trap known as second book syndrome, but whether or not you'll enjoy this better than Hodge's other retelling probably depends on your matter of preference. Whereas Cruel Beauty's played a huge role in the story, Crimson Bound is filled with much more blood and gore, and it has just a tad bit of romance.