Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Publication Date: February 14th, 2012
Walker Children’s
Format: Hardback, 292 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
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 to say that I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of reading or watching about this legendary thief ever. Scarlet by AC Gaughen simply gave it a twist that made the fable of Robin Hood of Locksley more palatable to the YA genre.

Scarlet is a story about a girl running from her past while trying to correct it in one form or another. On the surface, Scarlet is a fearless, heartless, crafty thief disguised in a boy’s clothing. But underneath it all lies a girl with a heartbreaking, tumultuous past. Being a part of a band of thieves enable her to atone for her misgivings, ironically enough. Giving to the poor, helping the sick and protecting those who were maltreated by the Sheriff and his men.  But her past caught up to her in the bloodiest way possible when the Sheriff hires Guy Gisbourne, a renowned thief taker and the man responsible for her plight.

AC Gaughen took the legend and spun it in a way that the focal point became Will Scarlet instead of Robin Hood. The heroine definitely didn’t lack for heart, even if she tried to convey the coldness and the darkness she claimed to have inside. Her character seem to be inconsistent sometimes, through no fault of the writer. I just think she spent a lot of time battling with who she really is against who she wanted to be. She has such deep sympathy and love to Robin’s people but she was awfully succesful in coming off as someone who cared very little.

As for Robin of Locksley, because the focus of the story is Scarlet, I had a bit of a rough time connecting with the man. There just wasn’t enough of him in the story even though the novel is based on his legend. He came across as someone who had a hard time deciding how to deal with his feelings for Scarlet as a woman and as a member of the band. It seems that he was…using her, for lack of a better word, as he sees fit. It drove me nuts sometimes that he was clearly jealous of the way John and Scarlet interacted and yet, he didn’t want to deal. He was protective of her, sure, but in other occasions, he was ever so willing to put her in danger. He confused me, plain and simple.

The romance between Scarlet and Robin didn’t even get to first base. Let’s just say that they barely made it out of the dug-out. I’m eagerly anticipating how their romance is going to play out, considering the circumstances of Scarlet’s er, bargain with Gisbourne. Scarlet, dressing up and pretending to be a boy gave the extra oomph in the romance department. In fact, it’s the reason why I clamoured to put this higher on my Mt. TbR pile.

If there’s anything I can complain about this novel is that I definitely have a beef with the lack of thieving from the Sheriff’s treasury. I think it would’ve made Robin more legendary had the band stole from the very source of greed. Spending most of their time pick pocketing and ambusing the rich left a lot to be desired for me.

I also had a rough time with the writing. I think the author tried to write in a way that it would be consistent with the times but I found myself correcting it from time to time. It gave me a mild headache.

But overall, I think Scarlet has become one of my favourite re-tellings thus far. It had my rapt attention consistently throughout the novel. The author did a fantastic job of showing us what it was like for women back in the days; when we have no voice, no choice, and the men dictates how we breathe. Scarlet is a fierce, courageous, valiant character who easily became an admired heroine in my books.

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