Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen

Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen
Scarlet (Scarlet #1)
By A. C. Gaughen
Publisher:
Walker & Company

To Sum It Up: As a member of Robin Hood’s gang of outlaws, Will Scarlet understands the importance of stealth better than anyone. After all, only the gang knows that Scarlet is really a girl posing as a boy. That’s not all Scarlet is hiding, even from her friends, though, and her past is about to catch up with her with the arrival of Guy of Gisbourne, the man whom the Sheriff of Nottingham has hired to rid himself of Robin Hood and his followers for good. For Scarlet, Gisbourne’s appearance in Nottingham means choosing between confronting the life she’s been running from and saving her friends.

Review: The legend of Robin Hood has been one of my all-time favorite tales since childhood. I love anything related to the Middle Ages, and the historical period paired with Robin and his colleagues’ dedication to aiding the poor has just always appealed to me. I also love watching film/TV adaptations of the story. The animated Disney version with Robin and Maid Marian as foxes and Little John as a bear is one of my favorite Disney movies. I was also addicted to the BBC’s spin on the tale a few years ago and faithfully tuned in to BBC America every Saturday night. (My love for that show may have had a teensy bit to do with Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Sir Guy of Gisborne and the fact that he was clad in black leather. Maybe. Just a tad. What was I saying?) Needless to say, I was psyched to read Scarlet and was ecstatic over the idea of a female protagonist who’s a member of Robin Hood’s crew.

One of the very first things you notice about the book is Scarlet’s narrative voice. Wherever the word “was” should be, you’re going to find “were” in place of it, as in, “I were bored. I went for a lookabout.” While Scarlet has a unique way of speaking, I didn’t find it distracting at all; I thought it quite suited her scrappy character and didn’t sound out of place in the story’s setting. The novel really shines at conjuring images of medieval England and making you feel like you’re there. The attention to period detail is impressive.

You’ll find the essentials of the Robin Hood legend here: he and his band of mates steal from the rich to give to the poor, who’ve been taxed into destitution by the nasty Sheriff of Nottingham. Besides Scarlet, Robin’s gang includes Little John and Much, with the occasional appearance by Friar Tuck as an innkeeper (alas, no Allan-a-Dale). I really liked the book’s depiction of Robin as a bit of a haunted soul, dealing with the weight of what he did and saw during his service in the Crusades. His character went deeper than the typical representation of him as a dashing hero of the common folk, and it was a refreshing take. Of course, the Robin in Scarlet is deeply concerned about the welfare of the people of Nottingham, and he works tirelessly to help them.

Where I hit a bit of bump in the book was with Scarlet herself. She’s an admirably tough, courageous character, but she also has a tendency to run off whenever anyone tries to get too close to her. Granted, the secret Scarlet guards is a big part of the plot, but I still couldn’t help becoming frustrated every time she pushed someone away or threatened to leave when she felt like she was being asked too many personal questions. I’m all for independent heroines, but Scarlet was also fortunate to have a group of fiercely loyal friends surrounding her, and I thought she didn’t always appreciate that fact.

I also wish that there had been a little more substance to Guy’s character. He came across as ├╝ber-villainous, and personally, I prefer baddies with a morally ambiguous side to them. Overall, though, this was a solid Robin Hood story that had me longing to travel back to the Middle Ages to join up with a band of beneficent outlaws. But only if I were somehow immune to the plague and other such lovely medieval maladies, obviously.

All in All: If you love this legend as much as I do, then you’ll probably want to give Scarlet a try. I thought the historical details were spot-on, and I liked how A. C. Gaughen adapted the tale to give it a different twist with a female character in the central role.

14 comments:

  1. Isn't this part of a series? I love the Robin Hood lore and this sounds like an interesting take on the myth. Hopefully scarlet's character heads for the right direction in the next book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, there's going to be a second book next year, Lady Thief. I'll definitely check it out, and I'm optimistic that Scarlet will have grown as a character since the first book.

      Delete
  2. Agreed - as much as I love ye olden times, I would hate to have lived before penicillin! Great review, I must give this book a stab. Thanks
    Gwynn
    http://gwynnethwhite.blogspot.co.uk/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm fascinated by the Middle Ages, but there's also a lot to be said for modern conveniences, and especially modern medicine!

      Delete
  3. Mari (co-blogger) read this book and adored it, but I still wasn't sure if it was my sort of thing. Based on your review, I may read it but tbh I'm not that into the Robin Hood myth. I haven't read a lot about it so that's what draws me into this book. I think that I may have an issue with "were" instead of "was" though... sometimes I'm anal about these type of things!

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! I wasn't sure I was going to get through Blood Red Road for the same reason-the narrative style-though I think BRR's was a lot tougher to adjust to. I'll try reading just about any book with a medieval theme to it, and for me, the Robin Hood aspect was a bonus.

      Delete
  4. I've heard SO many great things about this one, I really do need to get it out of my TBR shelf and into the 'read' pile! I'm glad you enjoyed this one overall Lee :) Like you, I've loved everything to do with Robin Hood since I was little. I also was a fan of that animated Disney version where they were foxes and bears!! I can still see their costumes in my head! I'll have to check out that BBC version :D

    I am sorry that you hit a bit of a bump with the MC though. Things like that can really affect your overall reading experience. And like you, I like my villains a bit more layers, or at least more mystique. Thanks for another great review though ^^

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you absolutely should check out the BBC version! Ally and I loved watching it, and we got Melissa hooked on it, too. And yay for the Disney version! I love that movie so, so much!

      I liked that Scarlet was a feisty heroine and not necessarily looking to fall in love like so many other female MCs in YA, but she also always seemed to be running away from the group, which got on my nerves after a while. I'm hoping she's done with that in the sequel, and I'm looking to see more to Guy's character in the next book as well.

      Delete
  5. Fantastic review, Lee. I'll give it a whirl even though it'll frustrate me equally when she pushes people away. It always bugs me when characters push away people who can help them, but I guess if they used common sense all the time the story would be a non-started :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes I just want to sit a character down and lecture him/her on how much easier life would be if a little more common sense were used. But you're absolutely right- then there probably wouldn't be much of a story, lol.

      Delete
  6. I have a copy of this but still have not read it! I need to check it out finally!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd had my copy since the book's release date, but as usual, I let it sit around for forever, lol.

      Delete
  7. I liked Robin as a troubled soul, too!

    I kind of see where you're coming from with Scarlet, I got why she was more closed off sometimes because I felt like the guys were kind of pushy sometimes? I don't know how to explain it. Like when she was talking about Guy's fiance and trying to explain to them, John was just like "oh well, better than killing yourself" and I don't know how to explain it well but I could see why she didn't feel completely open with them. I did get frustrated by the lack of communication, though! Especially with Scarlet and Robin, they were just not saying everything that needed to be said and kept getting hurt feelings and causing annoying problems!

    Also, I totally agree about Guy needing to be fleshed out. I like more complicated villains, too. I'm glad you liked it overall, too! Your review makes me feel like mine wasn't very well worded, oops! =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've got a good point about the guys sometimes not making it easy for Scarlet to feel she could tell them everything; I didn't think of that. Sometimes I just get really impatient with characters who could easily solve their problems by saying what they're thinking, but as Katja noted, there wouldn't be much of a story then, lol.

      And I thought your review was great- I enjoyed reading it! :D

      Delete

We love hearing from our readers and do our best to reply. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...