Saturday, February 11, 2012

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Publisher: Walker Children's
Pages: 286
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone?
SummaryMany 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.

Even though I have almost no experience reading or watching Robin Hood-related things, I was very curious about Scarlet, a young adult retelling about Will Scarlet as a girl posing as a boy. I figured adding an asskicking girl to the mix could only make a retelling of a classic tale even better.
In A.C. Gaughen's Scarlet, Will Scarlet is the only female member of Robin Hood's band of thieves. To everyone else she is a wiry thief boy and she prefers to keep it that way. Having one girl in a band of guys is not simple however--feelings and jealousy complicate the way in which the band operates. As the Sheriff of Nottingham and a new danger increase the violence on the people and close in on Scarlet and her comrades, these feelings only complicate the danger surrounding them. Scarlet and the band must elude capture and put a stop to the danger threatening Sherwood and Nottingham.
Scarlet was a great protagonist, but not an entirely open one. We find out her true identity at the same time that Rob (Robin Hood) does, which I thought was cool. Scarlet was strong, clever, and a brilliant thief. To make it interesting, she also had a whole lot of angst--angst about her part in her sister's death, angst about the feelings her had for Rob and his confusing reactions to her, and later angst about the perceived relationship between herself and John Little. She's pretty complicated, has a total guilt complex, and still manages to be a total badass.
I also liked Rob's character. From what I know about Robin hood, he's usually shown as a happy, quip-slinging thief that robs from the rich and gives to the poor (just like the man they call Jayne) (I'll not apologize for Firefly references). It appears that Gaughen has made him a more complex, slightly crankier/angstier character. I like my characters complex and angsty--as long as they have an important reason to be that way. I'd say that having the mouths, livelihoods, and lives of the people in Sherwood and Nottingham resting on his shoulders is reason enough to have a person focus on their angst.
My only issue was that I felt a few of the conflicts were left totally open. By the end John Little knows that Scarlet and Robin have feelings for one another, but it doesn't seem like he has given up on his own feelings for Scarlet. Also, I'm not going to say what, but the big danger for Scarlet and Rob was still out there and after them. If this turns into a series, there is still plenty of conflict to work off of, otherwise I could have used slightly more closure.
The awesomeness of Scarlet may have wrecked my opportunity to read other Robin Hood works. I don't think I want to read about a Robin Hood that doesn't have such a badass girl by his side. Gaughen has a great concept and characters that make this young adult retelling worth reading.

Rating: 4 - good.

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