Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Book Title/Author: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Publisher/Year Published: February 2012 by Walker Childrens
Where I got it: The library
Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary:Via Goodreads
Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.
I have so many opinions on this book. If you are spoiler happy, check out my Goodreads review and you will see the full wrath of my complaints. Here is the spoiler free version.

Scarlet is a retelling and reimagining of the Robin Hood legends, and the one thing that you can tell right off the bat, the author knows her Robin Hood. The things that were included were a mix of different legends. I really got the feeling throughout the story that she knew the time period as well, from the crusades to the Catholic nation. The one thing this book does really well is the early middle ages of it all.

But let’s go back. The book is a look at Robin Hood as a younger guy then he is usually depicted. Is this to cater to the YA crowd? I’m not sure. I was warring with that inside of me. On one hand people died earlier in the middle ages so life started early (yay marriage at 14….). On the other hand, YA lit so I need a younger cast, but not only that, a moodier cast. More on that later.

So we have our Robin, 21 just back from the crusades. We have our Much the youngest of them at 16. We have our Little John, 18 (which I can’t get over that. I’ve always pictured him as older than Robin but loyal to him to a fault and thus I think his age changed rubbed me wrong the most). And then Will Scarlet, 18. Who of course, is not “Will Scarlet”, just Scarlet.

And let me just say that if she was as pretty as the cover, the whole world would have to be a dumbass to not know she was a girl.

Anyway, they are this ragtag band and there is stealing of riches, giving to the poor, getting threatened by the Sheriff and then of course Gisbourne. An aside about Gisbourne. I could not help picturing Richard Armatige who played him in the BBC Robin Hood show, and it me smile at random inappropriate moments.

So the plot. Overall the plot was pretty good. It moved well. There were things from the legends worked in to a main plot that surrounded Scarlet. Of course there was a love triangle. OF COURSE! I am actually really mad about that. It was completely unnecessary. There is no question who the hero is (Robin), so it just seemed shoved in their because a publisher said “You know what is hot now? Love triangles. Try to write that in.” I think the plot could have been served just as well if there was just tension between Scarlet and Rob. It was just, bleh and it served to make the characters whiny hormonal teenagers.

The other thing that is not so much plot but stylistic choice that annoyed me at first was the voice. Scarlet is our narrator but does not talk in proper English. So there is a lot of “I weren’t doing anything wrong. I ain’t his girl” If you can’t take that sentence you won’t be able to read the book. I got used to it and it ceased to bug me. I get that she is a commoner and that is how they talked. Whatever. I’ve got other fish to fry.

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot. It was fine, engaging actually and I can’t complain (much) about it. I more want to talk about the characters.

What I liked:Well she was her own woman. In a time where women had absolutely nothing for themselves, she carved her own thieving way and knew what she wanted and what she didn’t. Well for the most part. She wasn’t cowed by a guy giving her eyes, and I don’t think was ever defined by any man in this book. Which is awesome.

What I didn't like: She was too awesome. She was more awesome then Robin Hood! Consistently more awesome than him. Arg! Robin Hood is the Hero. I get that Scarlet is supposed to be badass. That was the intent, but I really don’t think she should outshine Robin. And I felt she did. I mean, I have no problem with her being awesome too, but she was too awesome. Plus, I think Robin only got to shoot his bow once. Sad day!!

What I liked: Hmm.. I liked that he was noble like normal in the legends and all for the people. That was good. And I liked his talks with Scarlet. Those were cute. I wish it was just them so much… Again though, more arrows! More Robin!

What I didn't like: There was not enough of him and his amazing, for one. For two, I felt like we were missing his amazing. And for three, he was kind of a moody meanie to Scarlet. Sometimes he was really sweet, others he was just an ass.

What I liked: …??? He hit things?

What I didn’t like: He was a foil for Robin. Sometimes he was nice, I guess, though mostly protective to a fault of Scarlet. Possessive really. I don’t know. He was fine I guess, just that love triangle thing bothered me so much that it’s bleeding into the characters involved.

Much: He’s awesome. Nothing more to say, except MORE MUCH!

The one thing I think authors that are doing reimagining have to worry about it messing with what people already have in their heads. It’s almost like a fan-fic where you don’t want to make the characters too AU. She even addresses this in the end. How there have been a ton of Robin Hood media lately but she wanted to make a badass girl in the Merry Men and not a simpering ninny waiting for rescure. Well she overshot that and in the process made the rest of the merry men a teenage clique (besides Much).

The funny thing is despite all my complaining I liked it. It was a fun story that kept me turning the pages. I love Robin Hood and this story wasn’t bad, just frustrating because I could see how it would better serve my image of the story. And I really wasn’t as frustrated as I make it sound during the reading. It was after I closed the book that I really thought about all the things that bothered me.

There are things I didn’t like, there are things I did. I am not sure if it is a series or not. It was just open-ended enough that it could be, or it could be an unsatisfying conclusion to a standalone. If it is a series, I’d continue. If it’s not, I would recommend it to someone with the caution that if you have a strong opinion on Robin Hood legends (and love triangles) then it may not be your cup of tea. Also if you can take the “I were” and “I weren’t” writing.


  1. I love the way you review this... It's easy to digest with the "what I liked/didn't like" bits.
    I look forward to reading this. I know the Robin Hood story, but I never really LOVED it. I think this spin-off will be more enjoyable for me!

    1. Yeah. It was the easiest for me to do that with this book because the characters are really the central part of this AND they are so well known.

      I did enjoy it despite all my complaints.


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