Review: Scarlet - A. C. Gaughen

Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen
Series: Scarlet #1
Genre: YA, classic retelling
Published on February 14, 2012
Published by Walker Childrens
Pages: 292
Read From: 7.7.12 - 7.8.12












SYNOPSIS
Will Scarlet is good at two things: stealing from the rich and keeping secrets - skills that are in high demand in Robin Hood's band of thieves, who protect the people of Nottingham from the evil sheriff. Scarlet's biggest secret of all is one only Robin and his men know. . . .that she is posing as a thief; that the slip of a boy who is fast with sharp knives is really a girl. 
The terrible events in her past that led Scarlet to hide her real identity are in danger of being exposed when the thief taker Lord Gisbourne arrives in town to rid Nottingham of the Hood and his men once and for all. As Gisbourne closes in and puts innocent lives at risk, Scarlet must decide how much the people of Nottingham mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles have the rare power to unsettle her. There is real honor among these thieves and so much more - making this a fight worth dying for.


Review

Cover Blurb: I like the cover. Since the girl is looking up and off to the side, she doesn’t leer at me, I like the silhouettes of the leaves and grass, and I like the title’s font. And the girl isn’t done up too much.

What I Liked: Guy of Gisbourne was spot on and creepy. I’ve always preferred him as the villain over the Sheriff of Nottingham - or even Prince John. He just always seemed more cruel and heartless. And he’s all that in Scarlet. And for once I even liked Robin Hood himself. Maybe it’s because I watched Errol Flynn too much when I was little, and therefore Robin Hood has always struck me as annoying and yes, a bit gay, but I’ve never been especially attached to Robin’s character. I like him in Nancy Springer’s Rowan Hood series, and I didn’t mind him in Robin McKinley’s The Outlaws of Sherwood and Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Chronicles of Robin Hood. But I never really cared about him. Well, in Scarlet, I actually warmed up to his character. He wasn’t always laughing and had merry blue eyes, and he wasn’t always picking on people who were minding their own business. He had depth.

What I Disliked: Sadly, my dislikes far outweigh my likes. Mostly, because of Will Scarlet being a girl. Initially, I thought, Alright, this might work. And it might have . . . In the hands of another Author. But this Author gave pretty Scarlet The Attitude. Her surliness, tough-girl attitude, and lack of humor drove me up a wall. One of the “boys” would offer to help her or would make a little joke and she’d snap his head off. If someone was as bad-tempered as often as Scarlet, I wouldn’t ever help them and I certainly wouldn’t hang around them. I also didn’t like that everyone in Robin Hood’s gang knew she was a girl. It eventually led to romantic troubles that got even further on my nerves. While Scarlet keeps telling John Little that she doesn’t love him, she doesn’t really stop him when he gives her kisses and puts his arm around her, which irritated me as well. Make it bloody plain to him that you don’t like his attentions, Scarlet! Drive home your point painfully, if you have to! That wasn’t the most annoying aspect of the romance, though. We’ve got a bit of a love triangle going on here, and nothing irritates me about a love triangle more than when the two boys start fighting over the girl. Not only did this irritate me from the standpoint of a love triangle, but I also didn’t like John Little and Robin Hood being at odds with each other. I always liked the camaraderie between him and John, and I didn’t like that the Author changed it by throwing in a girl. I also didn’t like that the Author changed John’s personality from being a noble young man who protected everyone like a big brother, to a flirtatious womanizer. And I didn’t feel like I really got to know Much all that well. I also didn’t like that the Author replaced Marion with Scarlet as Robin’s love interest. The Author says in her Author’s Note that Marion “was always doe-eyed and waiting to be rescued.” Uh, actually, I’ve read lots of versions that depict Marion as a very strong woman. She rescues herself from an unwanted marriage because Robin is late in getting to the castle in time, and she’s always at Robin’s side, giving hope to the people and being supportive. How is that “waiting to be rescued?” The nickname “Scar” also really got on my nerves, for some reason.

Believability: Scarlet did rely mostly on stealth and quickness when she killed people, but the karate backflips and kicks started feeling silly very quickly. And sorry, but if Scarlet was that determined to hide as a boy from Guy of Gisbourne, she would have cut her hair. The dialogue also did not feel very authentic.

Writing Style: No present-tense (yay!), but it still managed to be extremely movie-ish. Scarlet is the narrator, and everything is written in what is supposed to be an English street urchin accent. It’s not hard to follow, but it just didn’t work for me. I didn’t feel right. As for storyline structure, I honestly have to wonder why Scarlet had to be a girl at all. As I got closer to the end, it struck me that the Author could have had basically the same story even if Will Scarlet were kept as a boy. And it would have been better.

Content: 5 g--damns, and Scarlet is almost raped (pg. 214). Her attacker rips her shirt off, but then things are halted in a timely fashion.

Conclusion: It’s exciting, and if the Author decided to write a sequel, she could, though I certainly don’t think it needs one. Even if it were a good book, I wouldn’t think it needs one. Tangled up emotions get straightened out, people are killed, Scarlet and Robin finally talk about how they feel, and Robin’s band starts to grow. So it’s a pretty predictable ending, but fits.

Recommended Audience: This is definitely a girl read. So guys who are looking for a good Robin Hood retelling, you might want to look elsewhere. I am actually almost tempted to throw this into the romance genre, there’s that bloody much of it. People who don’t mind a bad-tempered female protagonist, and who don’t mind a bunch of changes to the Robin Hood legend, would probably not mind Scarlet too much. But, honestly, if you want to read a Robin Hood story that has a girl disguised as a boy - or just a good female character - Rowan Hood by Nancy Springer and The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley are both much better.


Others in This Trilogy:
1)Scarlet
2)Lady Thief
3)Lion Heart

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