Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Release date: February 14, 2012
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Pages: 292
Format: Ebook
Source: Purchased
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
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.
The only book about Robin Hood I've read is Robin McKinley's The Outlaws of Sherwood, which was, of course, fantastic to me because it was Robin McKinley, but that was at least ten years ago. I don't have a ton of experience with the legend aside from the very basics, so my expectations coming into Scarlet were kind of vague, only informed by the high ratings most of my Goodreads friends had given the book. And while I can't necessarily rave about it, I definitely enjoyed the novel's twist on the character of Will Scarlet.

Honestly, I wasn't thrilled by the first, oh, 70 percent of the book, if that's not the worst thing to say ever. I mean, it was vaguely interesting, but I didn't feel like there was a whole lot of moving forward. Tax day is coming and all, and the band tries to get money for it while avoiding Gisbourne. That's it, with some love triangle angst thrown in. We're thrown bits and pieces of who Scarlet is, but that's a secret that was immediately obvious, so the clues were useless. It's not until just before tax day that anything terribly interesting--and with actual plot repercussions--happens, and that's at about 70 percent. That last 30 percent, though, is awesome! It had all the intrigue, real romance, action, and hoodwinks (see what I did there?) that I wanted from the entire book, and ultimately saved the book for me.

What keeps Scarlet working throughout all that muck is Scarlet herself, though. She's the reason I kept on. Scarlet is kick-ass and can really take care of herself, but she's reliant on the boys for their love, support, and friendship--not protection, which is awesome. The girl proves herself perfectly adept and capable time and time again. But, she blames herself for the death of someone she loves, and this informs every decision she makes, ultimately trying to atone for that death and hopefully to be acceptable to herself again.

And while I felt like the inclusion of a love triangle was unnecessary and really just a tool to make some conflict where there wasn't anything else, I have to say I found myself really liking Robin. I liked seeing his self doubt and frustration at his inability to protect the people. Robin Hood is a hero, but he's also supposed to be human, and that's what's so fun about new iterations of him, seeing how authors explore his character and what makes him tick, those interpretations and motivations.

Can I just say dialect in books frustrates me? I want to correct it--especially when it's not so much a dialect that it becomes a kind of rhythm in my head, but it's just a wrong verb tense or "ain't" every so often. I get the motivation for Scarlet speaking as such, but Much and John were common and didn't speak as badly as Scarlet.

All in all, Scarlet didn't live up my expectations but it was still a worthwhile read. It's good and I can see why so many people loved it; it just came up short for me personally. If you're like me and late to the bandwagon, I would recommend the book for Robin Hood and historical fiction fans. It may not be perfect, but it's good enough.

About the author:

A.C. Gaughen is a YA writer, secret hotel concierge, occasional freelancer, obsessive reader, total geek, and author of SCARLET, her debut novel.

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